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‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Avengers,’ ‘Stranger Things’ Are Top Entertainment Franchises, Survey Finds (EXCLUSIVE)

Mandalorian Avengers Stranger Things
Disney Plus/Marvel/Netflix

Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian,” Marvel’s “Avengers” films and Netflix’s “Stranger Things” are the top power franchises — considered the boldest and most thought-provoking — according to a new survey from the National Research Group.

Beginning in January 2019, NRG, a global insights and strategy firm, conducted more than 350,000 interviews about 700 entertainment franchises to discover which were considered the most bold, inspiring and thought-provoking by U.S. consumers. The results were analyzed to determine which franchises are most likely to withstand the test of time and continue to evolve and reinvent themselves to remain relevant to their global fans.

“Consumers are ready for entertainment franchises to lean into important cultural conversations and create a new reality — one in which optimism, diversity and curiosity unite rather than divide us,” says Jon Penn, CEO of NRG.

To little surprise, Disney and Marvel dominated the top 20 franchises with 70% of the entries, which included titles from the film, TV and video game industries. “The Mandalorian” held the top spot, while Marvel superhero franchises like “Avengers,” “Black Panther,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Iron Man,” “Black Widow” and “Spider-Man” filled out the list.

However, Netflix came close behind with three of the top 10 titles, including “Stranger Things,” “The Witcher” and “Ozark.” The powerhouse streaming site also has more entries in the top 20 than Disney Plus.

Here are the top 20 entertainment franchises, according to NRG.

  1. “The Mandalorian”
  2. “Avengers”
  3. “Stranger Things”
  4. “John Wick”
  5. “Black Panther”
  6. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  7. “The Witcher”
  8. “Ozark”
  9. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
  10. “Black Widow”
  11. “Deadpool”
  12. “Thor”
  13. “Iron Man”
  14. “Mario Bros.”
  15. “Toy Story”
  16. Doctor Strange”
  17. “Spider-Man”
  18. “Coco”
  19. “The Lion King”
  20. “Hamilton”

The survey also examines which elements make each of the franchises particularly noteworthy, including its boldness, inclusivity and thought-provoking ability. The more bold a franchise is perceived to be, the more likely people talk about it and build excitement.

Some of the boldest franchises NRG found in its survey include Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” Fox and National Geographic’s “Cosmos,” Marvel’s “Black Panther” and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which came to Disney Plus over the summer.

With most films being delayed out of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, many consumers have turned to streaming sites and video games for their entertainment. The popular video game series “Animal Crossing,” in which players can build their own island community, experienced huge momentum as players considered it a creative space rather than a game, NRG reports. Games using social connection, such as “Fall Guys” and “Among Us,” signaled a trend where players can discover and assert who they are, according to the survey.

For Gen Z audiences, aged 13-24, “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Shrek” are among the top five franchises, thanks to having “the best memes or videos online.” For Black audiences, the strongest brands feature cultural representation and include “Black Panther,” “Black-ish,” “Insecure,” “Atlanta,” “Empire,” “Black Lightning,” “Power,” “Queen Sugar” and “Get Out.”

Successful young adult franchises, like “Stranger Things,” “On My Block,” “Euphoria” and “Sex Education,” suggest that the genre is one of the most diverse categories of content, inspiring personal growth among viewers of all ages. The most popular unscripted franchises, such as “Survivor,” “Shark Tank,” “The Amazing Race” and “America’s Got Talent,” also feature everyday people, suggesting audiences prefer them to celebrity appeal.

In 2021, NRG predicts that successful franchises will be bold and adapt to shifting attitudes while delivering what audiences know and love about them. After most blockbuster franchise entries were delayed from 2020, NRG’s data shows that consumers are optimistic and hopeful for new theatrical experiences next year. New and old franchises, like “Fast and Furious,” “James Bond,” “Ghostbusters” “Top Gun,” “The Matrix,” “Black Widow” and “A Quiet Place,” will return in 2021 to excite consumers and help restart the franchise engines for the future.