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Stranger Things Helped Streaming Earn A Major Victory Over Cable TV

argyle, eleven, jonathan, will and mike in Stranger Things
(Image credit: Netflix)

For years now, the steady decline in linear TV viewership, as well as in cable and satellite subscriptions, has pushed the entertainment spotlight more onto streaming services. And that ring of light shone brighter than ever in July 2022, with the massive success of Stranger Things’ fourth season on Netflix helping to put streaming services atop cable TV for the first time ever in regards to monthly viewership percentage shares. 

Now, this wasn’t exactly a wide-margin victory, and the chances are more than decent that the numbers will shift around in big ways once Fall TV, NFL games, and Yellowstone Season 5 factor in. But for now, in the dregs of mid-to-late summer television, the world of streaming can finally don the king’s crown.

According to Nielsen stats, streaming content earned 34.8% of the viewership shares (compared to cable’s 34.4%), with an average of 190.6 billion minutes of movies, TV shows, and more being streamed each week in July. Not only does that easily crush the 169 million minutes-per-week average clocked during the early COVID quarantine months, but the five weeks in July 2022 now stand as the most successful stretch for streaming programming on record. It’s a bonkers stat, but one that’s definitely justified by all the buzz-worthy shows that cropped up before and during July’s arrival.

Within that 34.8%, Netflix was the service with the biggest sub-share with 8%, thanks in large part to the 18 billion+ minutes of streaming from Stranger Things, which kicked the month off by dropping the extended final two episodes of Season 4. (Fans’ newfound obsession with Joseph Quinn’s Metallica-impressing Eddie Munson and well-established obsession with Steve’s hair certainly helped.) But the ‘80s-set horror drama obviously wasn’t the only show helping to boost Netflix’s stats. Virgin River’s fourth season and The Umbrella Academy’s chart-topping third outing combined for more than 11 billion minutes of viewing, while another 5 billion minutes came from the feature releases of The Gray Man and The Sea Best.

Beyond Netflix — and the 10.2% of the shares that accounted for “Other Streaming” — YouTube landed 7.3% of the shares. (I shamefully feel like my kid’s NumberBlocks video viewing accounts for at least half of that.) Below that came Hulu’s 3.6%, as bolstered by its biggest winners: the whodunnit comedy Only Murders in the Building and FX’s stress bubble of a restaurant dramedy The Bear, which generated more than 3 billion minutes of streaming combined. Just below that is Amazon’s Prime Video service (3.0%), with its popular series The Terminal List and The Boys delivering 8 billion streaming minutes in July.

Perhaps surprisingly, that rundown of services was bottomed out by Disney+’s 1.8% and HBO Max’s 1.0%. It would appear that shows such as Marvel’s Ms. Marvel didn’t have quite the pull Disney+ execs would have wanted, while HBO Max’s more high-profile July premieres (Harley Quinn and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin) didn’t debut until the end of the month.

A lack of marquee debuts is certainly what kept cable TV and broadcast (21.6%) down compared to past months and years, though the lack of live sports coverage is likely the biggest factor to consider. That’ll certainly get flipped upside down (not a Stranger Things reference) from September through February as the NFL returns to topple all ratings-related rundowns, with Amazon’s stronghold on Thursday Night Football aiming to skew some of those stats. 

Need something to watch, regardless of whether it’s on streaming, cable, or broadcast? Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to get a look at everything heading to the small screen in the coming months. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.