It’s time, once again, to wrestle with the most important pop culture question of a generation: Do people prefer big-budget fantasy shows where people take their pants off, or the ones where they keep them on?
That’s right: Per Variety, Nielsen has just released some streaming viewership statistics for August 29 through September 4, i.e., the first week where both Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, and HBO’s House Of The Dragon, were both out there, duking it out for your digital attention with all their elves and incest and intrigue and shit.
But before we get into those delicious, juicy numbers—oooh, who’s winning, who’s the king of the ring-dragons, we gotta know!—we do unfortunately have to eat our veggies in the form of the same damn caveats that always seem to crop up around third-party assessments of streaming viewership numbers. For instance: As Variety points out, the timing window doesn’t exactly line up here: Dragon issued its premiere episode back on August 21, so what we’re seeing with this data is the period between right after it put out its second episode, and right after it put out its third. (Rings, meanwhile, released its first two episodes four days into the measured period.) There’s also the issue that House Of The Dragon airs simultaneously on HBO—to the tune of about 10 million people, at least for the premiere—while The Lord Of The Rings is streaming-exclusive, so these numbers by default can’t reflect actual viewership.
(Also: There’s the fact that, while Nielsen has gotten better at this stuff over the decade since streaming essentially smashed their entire business model into tiny little bits, their numbers still get refuted by the actual networks and services all the time. Also, these are only from the U.S., natch.)
Okay, got all that? Expectations suitably set? Understanding of nuance and the complexities of the streaming ecosystem properly achieved? Great!
Anyway, Rings Of Power kicked the shit out of House Of The Dragon, with viewers reportedly streaming 1.3 billion minutes of the Amazon show, while the Game Of Thrones prequel scored a piddly 781 million. That put Rings at the top of Nielsen’s charts for the week, while House only came in at No. 5. (One spot behind Game Of Thrones, in fact, which presumably has had an uptick in interest ahead of the new show’s release.)
As Variety points out, regardless of the whole pissing match aspect, this is the first third-party data verifying Amazon’s own claims that 25 million people watched the Lord Of The Rings premiere. Who knew: Throw billions of dollars at one of the best known IPs on the planet, market it relentlessly, and own one of the largest retail conglomerates in existence and you, too, might someday have a number one fantasy TV hit!