Hollywood has become obsessed with the streaming metrics for Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and HBO Max’s House of the Dragon—both the overall metrics and the inevitable desire to juxtapose the two series. After all, the numbers are presumed to be leading indicators for the sort of mega-expensive, high-stakes fantasy I.P. bets that pervade the post-Netflix-correction streaming era. Will the long term financial return merit the extraordinary upfront investment? Every studio executive in town is watching closely to figure it out. With the first season of both shows just past their midway marks, it feels like a good time to check in on the raw performance that Rings and Dragon are actually delivering.
Nielsen reported last week that The Rings of Power’s first two episodes amassed 1.25 billion minutes watched, or some 9.5 million completed views, according to my calculations. (Amazon noted that the series “attracted more than 25 million viewers globally” on its first day.) That’s decidedly less than the combined 9.9 million viewers that Warner Bros. Discovery says tuned in for House of the Dragon across linear and HBO Max on a single night in the U.S. alone. Yet not only is Rings underperforming its biggest fantasy competitor, it is also only marginally surpassing less expensive content on the Prime platform. The third season of The Boys, for instance, logged 949 million minutes over its first three episodes when it debuted, and The Wheel of Time pulled 1.16 billion minutes over its first three episodes when it premiered. Even setting aside the $250 million that Amazon paid upfront for rights to the I.P., both were produced for a fraction of what The Rings of Power cost.
As always with emerging industries, there are apples-to-bananas issues with comparing Rings to Dragon along a single dataset. To wit, the time period that Nielsen collected data (Aug. 29 through Sept. 4) means that viewership for The Rings of Power, which dropped two episodes, was counted for four solid days while House of the Dragon’s third episode only received a couple of hours of measurement. Moreover, because House of the Dragon also airs on linear TV, there are measured hours that don’t make it into Nielsen’s recap. Regardless, both inputs suggest that House of Dragon has out-rated Rings in ways that we can’t yet measure.