We’re over halfway through the year and it’s time to dig into the Netflix top 10 stats to see what Netflix’s biggest hits and biggest flops of 2023 have been so far.
Note: In this report of Netflix’s hours viewed from the first quarter of 2023, we’ll use “Complete Viewings Equivalent” or CVE, expressed in millions for the first 14 days of availability of a title. That means we divide the hours viewed announced by Netflix by the runtime of films or series. It allows for better comparisons between films and series, but it’s not an audience metric. It is the minimum number of viewings if they were all complete from the first second to the last of the film or season. This metric is now used by Netflix which calls it “views”.
A French version of this post can be found on the substack, Netflix & Chiffres.
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1. New series
Let’s start with the new English-speaking series as Netflix decided in 2023 to use a simple programming plan for them: one new English-speaking series or a new season of a returning English-speaking series every Thursday, like clockwork.
That means that those series had a week to themselves to try and attract the attention of viewers. Two did that particularly well: The Night Agent and Queen Charlotte, which reached more than 50M CVEs during their first 14 days. The Night Agent ended up in the all-time Top 10 too.
But if I had to name one very surprising success this year, it would be XO, Kitty which reached 32M CVEs after 14 days, making it the third-best launch for a new English-speaking series.
It did better than FUBAR or even Beef or The Diplomat. Out of those five best-performing series, three have been renewed (The Night Agent, XO, Kitty, and FUBAR) whilst Queen Charlotte and Obsession were limited series.
Let’s move on to the new international series.
Spanish language rules supreme in the international charts with four series. The best-performing one is the Columbian series Fake Profile (renewed) with 24.6M CVEs for its first 14 days, which bested The Snow Girl (renewed too), Muted and Mexican series Triptych, both of which are limited series. Finally, the Danish limited series The Nurse did very well too.
Now, the problem is that there is no one global international hit so far on Netflix’s side in 2023. By that we mean there’s no hit on the scale of Squid Game, Money Heist, Lupin or even All of Us are Dead-sized success that would shore up the international lineup for the years to come. It’s only July so this big international success might be a little further down the road.
2. New seasons of returning series
I’ve deliberately not included The Witcher for the returning series, as it will make most of its numbers up in the third quarter of 2023.
The undoubted winner is Ginny & Georgia, with 41.7M CVEs over its first 14 days. Hence, it was renewed for two new seasons.
It’s trickier to evaluate the performance of You due to its split release but I estimate it around the 35M CVEs. The series too was renewed, for one final season though. Another one that’s going strong is Outer Banks and it was renewed for a new season. Extraordinary to think that if a series is a hit, it gets renewed.
The last two series in the Top 5 are Never Have I Ever which ended with its 4th season and Black Mirror which did really well. It might get renewed in the future but Black Mirror is doing its own thing so it might take a while.
As with new series on the international front, new seasons of returning series struggled in 2023 with the sole exception being the South Korean series The Glory.
But seasons 2 of The Marked Heart and Welcome to Eden ultimately disappointed, and that’s resulted in two different outcomes.
Since The Marked Heart was renewed for two new seasons, it will come back for a third season regardless of the drop in viewership of its second season. However, Welcome to Eden was canceled last week. And if the third-best-performing international returning series of the year is getting canceled, you’ve got yourself a problem. Lupin will be a good test in October as there was a huge decline in viewership between season 1 and season 2. Can season 3 recapture that “magic”? We’ll see. Down the list, Sky Rojo ended with its third season, and Wrong Side of the Tracks is an acquired title and was renewed by its TV channel in Spain.
3. New films
Like it did with the English-speaking series, Netflix also started a specific programming template in 2023 for English-speaking films with one tentpole each month (that does around 60M CVEs and up) and one less major US title (between 20 and 40M CVEs). That strategy seems to have worked well during the second quarter of the year with Murder Mystery 2 in April, The Mother in May, Extraction 2 in June with those following the successes of Luther in March, and You People in January.
Below those titles on the list is Your Place or Mine, February’s tentpole.
So, The Mother is the biggest Netflix title of 2023 so far and it is now in the all-time Top 10. Extraction 2 might get a place too in it, but we’ll know that for sure in the coming weeks.
On the international films’ side, French actioner AKA is reigning so far with 45M CVEs during its first 14 days. The most noticeable thing in international films is that three of the five biggest titles of the year are acquired titles by Netflix outside of their original territory: Viking Wolf from Sweden, Narvik from Norway, and Faithfully Yours from the Netherlands. So that also puts into focus the lack of big international titles.
Thai thriller Hunger is a surprise hit though and the only film from the Asia-Pacific region following the lackluster performances of Jung_E in January and Kill Boksoon in March.
4. New documentary series.
It’s been a quiet year so far for Netflix documentary series (and documentaries, for that matter). The Murdaugh Murders is still the biggest documentary series of the year, thanks in part to its release date right during the trial of the main character in the US.
During the second trimester, Arnold did good but not great (just like FUBAR) and you’ve got your garden variety of true crime series to complete the list.
5. New Reality Shows
Reality TV shows are harder to evaluate as their weekly schedule for them makes it difficult to analyze. Still, for this category, I estimate that the South Korean show Physical 100 is so far the most watched reality TV show of the year, besting the new season of Love is Blind and Selling Sunset.
6. The flops.
Besides the successes, there have also been some quite notable flops since January.
These were already on our flop watchlist last trimester, and they continue to be a disappointment so far, even with the new methodology for the Top 10. Out of the 35 new animated series seasons released in 2023 so far, only one managed to get into a weekly worldwide Top 10, and that was back in January. Agent Elvis, Skull Island, My Dad the Bounty Hunter, and Mulligan did not chart at all. The days of animated successes such as Arcane, Sonic Prime, or Cyberpunk: Edgerunners seem very distant.
On a related note, Netflix animated films have not performed so great in 2023. The Magician’s Elephant is maybe the least disappointing of the whole line-up, with Nimona being a bona fide flop. Worse, the most watched animated film of the year so far on Netflix is Minions: The Rise of Gru and it wasn’t even available globally on Netflix, just in the US and some other territories. The end of the year should bring some successes in that category with Leo starring Adam Sandler and scheduled for Thanksgiving, and Chicken Run 2 slated for December 15th.
Glamorous and Freeridge.
Less US series have been released in 2023 so far than in the previous years, which makes the flops even more visible. Glamorous and Freeridge are two of the biggest flops on the US series slate so far, with Freeridge being canceled and Glamorous’s future still uncertain. I can also add to this list Shadow & Bone which suffered the curse of “the decaying second season viewership” and for which we haven’t heard a thing about its fate since its release in March.
It’s hard for international series NOT to appear in a weekly worldwide Top 10, but Indian series are getting pretty good at it and are regularly absent. Scoop, Toothpari, Trial by Fire are some of the titles that failed to appear in the Top 10 during the first quarter of 2023 and that’s especially strange as Indian Netflix subscribers are the ones who watch Netflix the most per day, according to a new study.
— Maria Rua Aguete (@maria_aguete) July 5, 2023
So there are either not a lot of Indian subscribers, or they are not watching Indian original series.
Sports documentary series.
Sports is being rumored as the next big programming play for Netflix, but one consistent trend this year is how sports documentary series have been doing less than stellar performances.
Break Point (tennis) never charted in the weekly Top 10, Full Swing (golf) spent only one week in the Top 10, same as Tour de France: Unchained (cycling).
Quality is there, though, as those series have had good critical ratings, but the public is just not on board yet. The most encouraging thing about sports is maybe the performance of Physical 100, which seems to have been a huge hit worldwide.