The two buzziest genre projects on TV right now are finally having their first viewership battle.
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” and Amazon Prime Video’s “The Lord of the Rings” expansion “The Rings of Power” both appeared on Nielsen’s streaming rankings for the week of Aug. 29-Sept. 4, with “The Rings of Power” coming out on top — taking the No. 1 position with 1.3 billion minutes viewed. “House of the Dragon” was behind it, ranking as No. 5 and being watched for 781 million minutes, 61% less than its rival. (Note: Nielsen measures only U.S. viewing on television screens, excluding other countries and devices.)
This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, as the availability of the two series doesn’t match up exactly. “The Rings of Power” debuted with two episodes at 9 p.m. ET on Sept. 1, meaning they were streamable for the last three days plus a few hours of Nielsen’s viewing window. By contrast, “House of the Dragon” premiered its first episode at 9 p.m. ET on Aug. 21, its second on Aug. 28 and its third on Sept. 4 — with Episode 3 arriving just a few hours before Nielsen concluded its count for the week. Additionally, it’s important to note that “The Rings of Power” is a streaming exclusive, while “House of the Dragon” has cable viewership that Nielsen’s streaming chart doesn’t account for.
As such, the Aug. 29-Sept. 4 viewing window does primarily match up both series’ first two episodes against each other, and both series have roughly hour-long episodes, but the fact of streaming exclusivity for “The Rings of Power” is a solid advantage. The contingent of “House of the Dragon” viewers watching the show on cable is sizable; for example, per Nielsen, 3.2 million of the 9.9 million viewers on premiere night for “House of the Dragon” were watching on the HBO channel. That’s roughly one-third of viewers.
But still, “House of the Dragon” had the advantage of its first two episodes being available to watch throughout the entire week. Plus, the small window of availability for Episode 3 shouldn’t be ignored. For example, when Episode 1 of the series premiered at the tail end of Nielsen’s Aug. 15-21 window, it didn’t make the chart, but it still clocked 327 million minutes of streaming viewing in its first few hours on HBO Max.
Charting higher than “House of the Dragon” this week was its predecessor. “Game of Thrones” took the No. 3 position for the second week in a row with 792 million minutes of streaming viewing thanks to fans rewatching the series as it returns to the zeitgeist. Therefore, combined with the 781 million viewing minutes of the prequel, as a franchise, “Game of Thrones” does have “The Lord of the Rings” beat — though of course, the latter doesn’t have the benefit of a long-running series preceding it.
This week’s Nielsen Streaming Top 10 is the first third-party viewership data to be released about “The Rings of Power.” Previously, the only information available about its audience was Amazon’s self-reporting that the series reached 25 million global viewers in its first day, so this is a big win for the streamer, which until now never had a series debut as No. 1 in its opening weekend (though one movie had a chart-topping debut: “Coming 2 America”). The billion-dollar budget Amazon invested in “The Rings of Power” — making it the most expensive TV project ever — has certainly begun to pay off.
In the No. 2 chart position for the second week in a row was the Netflix movie “Me Time” with 927 million minutes in its first full week of availability, down just slightly from last week’s 971 million minutes. Following at No. 3 was “NCIS,” which makes the Top 10 most weeks thanks to constant Netflix viewing, but charted higher during this viewing window perhaps as viewers rewatched the series ahead of CBS’ Sept. 19 premiere of Season 20.
Limited series “Devil in Ohio” debuted as the No. 6 streaming program, racking up 716 million minutes viewed in its first three days of availability on Netflix. In seventh and eighth place were usual suspects “Cocomelon” and “Grey’s Anatomy” with 693 million and 674 million minutes viewed, respectively.
“Stranger Things” dropped from No. 4 to No. 9 in the ninth week of full availability for Season 4, being viewed for 667 million minutes compared to last week’s 890 million. And in last place was Netflix’s “Echoes,” a far fall as it was last week’s No. 1 streaming program. From Aug. 29 to Sept. 4, its second full week of availability, the limited series was watched for 627 million minutes, compared to 1.1 billion minutes the week before.
See Nielsen’s newest Top 10 streaming rankings below, with overall streaming titles for Aug. 29-Sept. 4 first, followed by original streaming titles, acquired titles and then films.