The Upside Down took the No. 1 position on Nielsen’s 2022 streaming chart: Netflix’s blockbuster “Stranger Things,” led by the release of the fourth season, was the most-streamed TV show — and overall program — in the U.S. last year.
The sci-fi hit series ran up that hill to register a whopping 52 billion minutes streamed in 2022, the highest total since COVID-driven lockdowns drove audiences to watch 57.1 billion minutes of NBC’s “The Office” in 2020. The dominance of original content like “Stranger Things” was underscored by the fact that there are only 34 episodes of the Duffer brothers’ series, compared with 192 episodes of “The Office.”
According to Netflix, “Stranger Things 4” holds the title as the No. 1 most-watched English TV series in the first four weeks of release, with the fourth season having garnered 1.35 billion hours worldwide in the initial 28-day period. (Nielsen’s estimates are U.S.-only.) That’s followed by “Wednesday,” which according to Netflix scared up 1.24 billion hours watched in the same window (and came in at the No. 3 spot on Nielsen’s original series list, behind “Stranger Things” and “Ozark”).
While original content drew big audiences, older TV shows continued to be massively popular on streaming platforms. The second most-watched program overall in 2022 was “NCIS,” the CBS crime-drama procedural, whose 356 episodes on Netflix pulled in 38.1 billion minutes viewed. In 2021 on Netflix, CBS’s “Criminal Minds,” which ran from 2005-20, was the most-viewed show in the U.S. (with 33.9 billion minutes of watch time), per Nielsen.
Coming in at the No. 3 spot on the ranking of most-streamed U.S. programs was “CoComelon,” the enduringly popular kids show from Moonbug Entertainment (part of Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer’s Candle Media) on Netflix, with 37.8 billion minutes viewed. That was followed by Netflix original “Ozark” starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, whose fourth and final season hit the streamer in 2022.
The top 10 most-streamed programs for 2022 was rounded out by Disney+’s animated film “Encanto”; reruns of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” on Netflix; “Criminal Minds” (which was available on Netflix through mid-2022 and is now on Hulu and Paramount+); animated children’s show “Bluey” on Disney+; and “Gilmore Girls” and “Seinfeld” reruns on Netflix.
In total, Americans streamed more than 19.4 million years of content last year, up 27% about 15 million years in 2021, according to Nielsen.
On the movie front, “Encanto” was the No. 1 most-streamed title of the year. The movie, featuring original songs composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, premiered on Disney+ in December 2021, and over the course of 2022 racked up 27.4 billion minutes of viewing (equivalent to being watched 269 million times).
“Encanto” had more than double the watch time of the next most-viewed movies, Pixar’s “Turning Red” (also on Disney+) and Universal/Illumination’s “Sing 2” on Netflix.
Note that Nielsen uses an audio-based content recognition methodology to track a subset of TV households — which excludes mobile devices and PCs. Based on that data, Nielsen extrapolates estimated total U.S. streaming viewing for platforms including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon’s Prime Video, HBO Max, Peacock, Pluto TV, Apple TV+ and YouTube.