Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Records Historic Nielsen Streaming Win In Christmas Bow On Disney+

Dade Hayes
·4 min read

Soul, the Pixar animated feature released on Disney+ on Christmas Day, made history on Nielsen’s weekly U.S. streaming rankings, finishing No. 1 for the week of December 21 to 27.

With 1.669 billion total minutes of streaming, the film beat out The Office, which racked up 1.435 billion minutes in its waning days on Netflix. (It moved this month to NBCUniversal’s Peacock.) Disney also notched its first week with two titles in the top 10. Powered by its second-season finale, The Mandalorian finished fifth with about 1 billion minutes of viewing, after topping the chart in the previous week in a milestone for Disney+.

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Warner Bros tentpole Wonder Woman 1984 was the other Christmas Day studio release with a significant streaming presence, of course. At the same time it opened in theaters, it also debuted on WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max. Nielsen has not yet started measuring HBO Max as part of its weekly ratings. WarnerMedia has characterized the film’s performance on HBO Max positively, though it has not broken out specific viewing metrics. Parent AT&T is set to provide updated subscriber data next week as part of its quarterly earnings report.

Netflix’s George Clooney space drama The Midnight Sky made a strong showing, finishing No. 4 with 1.1 billion minutes. The film was close on the heels of Bridgerton, which Netflix confirmed this week as the fifth-best 28-day performer on a global basis among all of its scripted originals. See the full chart below.

Originally ticketed for theaters, Soul became one of dozens of studio releases re-routed to streaming and video on demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. Disney opted to make it one of three major 2020 releases, along with Hamilton and Mulan, available only to Disney+ subscribers. Soul and Hamilton were free for subscribers, but Mulan had a $30 “premier access” charge on top of the monthly fee.

With 86.8 million subscribers, Disney+ is now in dozens of territories around the world, but Nielsen’s rankings track only U.S. streaming via a TV set, meaning mobile viewing does not count. The numbers also come with a significant lag time built in, compared with TV ratings or theatrical box office, by arrangement with the streaming services being measured.

The Office, which crushed all other titles in overall 2020 streaming, has been a major force in the weekly charts as Netflix subscribers get in their final binges. Starting January 1, the sitcom began streaming exclusively on NBCUniversal’s Peacock under a five-year, $500 million licensing deal. Peacock offers the first two seasons on its free, ad-supported tier, with the remaining seven seasons available on Peacock Premium, which costs $5 a month for most subscribers.

Nielsen thus far has been measuring only Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+ but the measurement firm is expected to add Peacock and HBO Max in the coming months.

While series continue to dominate the Nielsen streaming rankings, a logical tilt given the emphasis on total view time, a statistic that favors episodic fare, feature films are taking up more streaming real estate. Four of the most recent week’s top 10 titles are feature films, with Netflix’s 2020 original Christmas Chronicles 2 and the 2000 Jim Carrey adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas both grabbing holiday eyeballs.

Netflix plans at least 70 major releases this year, while HBO Max will have Warner Bros’ entire slate and Disney has also steered some titles toward Disney+. Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are also players in the feature game, but neither has had a high-ranking movie title as of yet, according to Nielsen.

Here is the full weekly chart:

Soul (Disney+, film, 1.7 billion minutes)

The Office (Netflix, 192 episodes, 1.4B min.)

Bridgerton (Netflix, 8 eps., 1.2B min.)

The Midnight Sky (Netflix, film, 1.1B min.)

The Mandalorian (Disney+, 16 eps., 1B min.)

How the Grinch Stole Xmas (Netflix, film, 705M min.)

The Crown (40 eps., 700M min.)

Grey’s Anatomy (Netflix, 366 eps., 691M min.)

Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix, film, 660M min.)

Criminal Minds (Netflix, 277 eps., 648M min.)

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