Netflix's Wednesday Addams just took down another villain. Or, well, her series just toppled Netflix's wildly popular series about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Either way, Wednesday season 2 feels all but guaranteed.
As reported by Variety, Wednesday (Netflix's Addams Family series) surpassed Ryan Murphy's Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, earning it the honor of being Netflix's second-most-popular English-language series ever. That means only Squid Game and Stranger Things season 4 part 1 got more hours of our time.
As for the math? Well, Netflix bases these calculations on the first 28 days of a show's release, and Wednesday (one of the best Netflix shows) became the third series to surpass 1 billion hours watched in that window. Dahmer raked in 856.2 million hours.
Wednesday's ability to rank this high for hours watched is particularly interesting due to its running time. Wednesday season 1 totals only 392 minutes, much less than Stranger Things 4 part 1 (547 minutes), Dahmer (530) and Squid Game (495 minutes). This suggests that either more people watched (or finished) Wednesday. But Netflix is so opaque with its numbers that we can't be sure. It only releases total hours watched.
And while this is all good news for the chances of a second Wednesday season, an odder story about Netflix's big picture lurks under these big numbers. Sure, it's one of the best streaming services, but problems are afoot.
Should you watch Wednesday? What we (and the critcs) think
We definitely enjoyed Wednesday, as Jenna Ortega does a fantastic job of making the iconic Addams Family character work for her. It's a little CW-ish, but a strong cast — many of the younger actors hit home-runs, and Gwendoline Christie and Luis Guzman thrive as well — and solid plot-twists make us eager for season 2.
It's also been earning stronger reviews since it dropped. Originally earning a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, it now has a 72% score. For example, CNN’s Brian Lowry wrote "To its credit, Wednesday rises to the challenge and mostly manages to make it look like a snap." Cristian Escobar of RogerEbert.com praised Ortega for "leaning into a deadpan humor made all the funnier by her character’s lack of interest in anything approaching laughter."
Should you watch Wednesday? If you're up for a YA mystery adventure and not too-tied to the original cast (Fred Armisen's Fester and Catherine Zeta-Jones' Morticia don't exactly work that well), we say take it for a spin. It's not one of those shows that takes a while to warm up, so you'll get a good sense by the end of the second episode if it's for you or not. I personally loved Netflix’s Wednesday, and found it to be the Harry Potter alternative I didn’t know I needed.
Analysis: Netflix's mega-hits may not be enough
So, looking at the above, you might think Netflix is sitting pretty. 2022 may have seen Netflix encounter subscriber issues, add an ads-supported tier (which it had been averse to) and start cracking down on account-sharing, but its four most-watched shows ever all came very recently.
Media analyst Julia Alexander at Puck has explained, though, that this is "entirely discordant with the fact that Netflix also had arguably its worst year on record." The service is not growing at the rate that many (including Wall Street) would prefer, only adding 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada in the most recent financial quarter, and its estimated subscriber growth for Q4 2022 is only half the amount that joined Q4 2021.
What's the problem? Well, Julia suggests (and I agree with her) that Netflix's biggest hits seem to be reaching the same people over and over again — and not anyone else. I'm also of the belief that Netflix's tendency to cancel beloved shows (RIP GLOW), isn't helping its cause with brand loyalty.
Where have those subscribers gone? Well, look at the other big streaming services and how they differ. HBO Max continues to offer prestige TV at a solid clip, while Peacock and Paramount Plus offer live sports, including WWE on Peacock, which never has an off-season. Hulu, by the way, is still the destination for post-cable users who want to watch TV shows the day after they air. And Disney Plus' strangle-hold on all things Marvel and Star Wars is constantly being replenished with more shows than you can keep track of.
All of those services, to varying degrees, have reasons to keep them around for large portions of the year, if not year-round. I'm not saying Peacock is beating Netflix in any way — but Netflix is being attacked from all angles, and times are tough and forcing people to re-think all of their monthly payments. And if you're not one of the super-served members of the Netflix faithful, you're definitely more likely to cancel and come back, aka 'churn.'
Netflix, in 2023, will dip a toe into live events, with a Chris Rock standup special coming in "early 2023." That said, one wonders if Netflix's stalled growth is also due to reaching close to the maximum possible audience. Its attempts to get people to pay more for sharing their accounts suggests that possibility.