12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (2024)

At the end of January, Nielsen rolled out their annual “Streaming Unwrapped” report, which consisted of three top fifteen lists for Originals, Acquired and Films, respectively, calculating ALL viewing across streaming for ALL of 2022. Not just the weekly numbers we see, but the top performing shows and films by TOTAL viewing across the entire year.

You probably saw the lists, and indeed in my “Winners and Losers of 2022” series, I included two of those charts. The one worry I had was that I sort of just dropped these charts on you, didn’t I? I didn’t dig into the data, explain what it was, find some insights, and most importantly, dive just a touch deeper than everyone else.

So you know what? Let’s go a bit deeper today. I want to provide some data cuts you haven’t seen (revealing some trends in the Nielsen data), but not in a super long article.

So stay tuned for twelve charts to explain the top shows and films of 2022, according to Nielsen.

(Today’s article is free for all subscribers. If you value these deep data dives, please consider subscribing. These are the sorts of data cuts that require tons of data collection, database management, and so on, all of which takes a lot of time. I only have that time because of the support of my subscribers. Thank you to them all.

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Original TV

First, here’s the list of “Top Fifteen Original Series by Total Viewing” for all of 2022:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (1)

Here’s how that list compares over time:1

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (2)

Some quick thoughts:

  • My article on the “logarithmic distribution of returns” remains one of my most important articles, period. Everyone needs to read and understand the concept that when hits “hit”, they aren’t a bit bigger, but multiples bigger than everything else.2 Like Stranger Things or Wednesday this year. These are only the top fifteen shows on all streaming, and the biggest hit is still 5.5 times larger than the fifteenth most popular show this year!

  • Yes, Netflix’s dominates these charts. Interestingly, Disney+ had a bit of a down year, since it didn’t get any of its weekly series onto the charts in 2022. The Mandalorian is probably its best shot this year, since it comes out early. Prime Video also had two titles make the charts, a first for them.

  • Speaking of early, there’s definitely a bias to this list as well, which is that shows that come out earlier in the year have more time to accumulate viewership. All data has a bias and that’s this look’s bias. (Though I am thankful to get it! More data is better data!)

The other bias with those two previous charts is they focus on “originals”, which really mean “first-run” series. And we focus on the shows, usually by color-coding where they streamed first, which naturally emphasizes Netflix’s strength. But too often we assume this means Netflix “owns” or produced all that stuff. But as I’ve written before, producing originals and owning originals is not the same thing.

Here's Netflix's top 2022 titles, divided by whether they own the shows outright or not:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (3)

Here’s the ownership of their original series on Netflix for the last three years, by owner:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (4)

Some quick thoughts:

  • This last chart is great news for Netflix, of course, as it shows how they do make more and more of their own Originals. Of course, some of it could be pandemic related, since the chart starts in 2020, and most streamers had to stop production on Originals due to the virus. But some is also having a lot of 2022 hits that they own outright (Stranger Things, Dahmer, Bridgerton, Inventing Anna, The Watcher).

  • Also interesting: of those five big, big shows they own, four came from their mega-overall deals with Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

  • If you’re curious about the ownership on other streamers, Disney tends to own all their Disney+ shows, but Hulu, notably, does not own The Handmaid’s Tale. Amazon doesn’t own The Boys either, and ownership for The Lord of the Rings is complicated (at best, it’s a co-production). Also Apple TV+ doesn’t own Ted Lasso, Warner Bros. TV does.

Acquired TV

First, here’s the list for 2022:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (5)

Here’s how that list compares over time:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (6)

Some quick thoughts:

  • The dominance of Netflix is again remarkable, and somewhat unsurprising. They have the most usage each month, so measures of total viewing will bias towards them. But it’s not a “bias”; it’s a reflection of their dominance in streaming.

  • That said, the tiniest of cracks has appeared in their armor. Friends on HBO Max making the list has to be a genuine surprise, and we’ll see if Criminal Minds or The Office can break through this year.

  • Also, kids shows have started to show out well, like Spongebob, Bluey and Cocomelon.

The thought I had looking at this list was, “Wow, look at the procedurals and sitcoms show out.” Does that show up in the data? Sure. Here’s the last three years of Original and Acquired TV lists sorted by genre:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (7)

I sort of feel like a broken record repeating this point in all of my year end recaps, but the takeaway is clear: procedurals and sitcoms are really popular. That said, drama and genres do tend to be the top series on the Originals charts, so make a strong presence on this list too.

And hey, while we’re here, here’s the ownership of top TV series across acquired and originals:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (8)

Among top shows, Netflix still doesn’t own that much and still really needs to license library TV series from other companies.


First, here’s the list for 2022:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (9)

Here’s how that list compares over time:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (10)

Some quick thoughts:

  • Unlike TV, dominated by Netflix, Disney dominates this list. Why? Well, kids content.

  • Disney’s lead was eaten into a bit by Netflix, but it’s interesting what type of films helped eat into the lead, Uncharted and Sing 2, both Pay-1 films, not Netflix wholly-owned titles. Interesting.

  • If you want to know why Disney is making a Zootopia sequel, look at the above charts. That film has made the list twice for the total viewing, showing good staying power. (Same for Frozen and Frozen II, obviously.) Also looking at the data, I’d bet a Moana sequel is inevitable, and an Encanto sequel is also very likely.3

It’s pretty easy to see that kids films dominate the Nielsen film charts over time, but let’s make that a little bit more explicit, shall we? First, here's the share of “family” films to the rest of the films:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (11)

For kicks, let’s just make it a little starker:

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (12)

When it comes to rewatchability of kids titles, Disney+ dominates, and you see that on the charts.

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Lastly, thanks to Nielsen for providing this great data cut! Yes, I wish every analytics company did the same, but I’ll take what I can get. (But also, Nielsen, give us a top twenty list next year!)


Honestly, this is the type of look I love to provide my subscribers because, to toot my own horn, who else analyzes the Nielsen data like this?


I’ve seen a few other articles on this recently, calling it “power law”. I was taught that the word “logarithmic” explains the shape better, but honestly the two terms are interchangeable. But I’m glad more people are writing about it!


By the way, Disney needs to avoid the oversight of the 1990s and make Moana, Encanto and Frozen “dark rides” as soon as possible.

12 Charts For Nielsen's “Tops of 2022” Lists (2024)


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