year in culture 2018

What America Loved to Watch in 2018, According to Comcast’s VOD Ratings

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

There were no new episodes of Game of Thrones in 2018, but by at least one metric, it remained the most popular show on TV anyway. Cable and broadband giant Comcast says HBO’s megahit was the No. 1 series on the company’s Xfinity video-on-demand platform during 2018, attracting more on-demand viewers than any other program available on the service. This is the fourth year in a row that Thrones has captured the Comcast crown, but the first time the show has done so without the availability of new episodes. It’s another sign of just how deep GOT fandom runs, and possibly a signal that some viewers are using the extended off-season to get up to speed before next year’s final season premieres in April.

Xfinity on Demand data obviously doesn’t carry the same weight as Nielsen’s broader audience sample, but it does offer some intriguing insights into the nonlinear viewing habits of the more than 22 million homes that get their video content via Comcast. Beyond the continued strength of Thrones, the biggest takeaway from this year’s numbers is how poorly comedies performed. Last year, The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory finished in Xfinity on Demand’s top five, while five other sitcoms made the top 20. This year? Not a single half-hour comedy cracked the company’s national year-end list. Instead, dramas dominated, with NBC’s This Is Us once again ending the year at No. 2, followed by Starz’s Power (up from No. 6 in 2017). Here are some other highlights of the Xfinity year-end data, both nationally and among some of the various regions of the country served by Comcast:

• The comedy exodus made room for a ton of drama programming that didn’t make last year’s chart. While Fox’s Empire failed to make the top 20 nationally for the first time since its 2015 debut, two of the network’s newer hours — 9-1-1 (No. 4) and The Resident (No. 16) — both made the cut. ABC’s The Good Doctor (No. 5) also appears for the first time, having debuted too late in 2017 to earn a spot in the top 20. And in a sign of its continued overall ratings growth, Billions (No. 13) also landed on the Xfinity chart for the first time, joining Shameless (No. 6) and Homeland (No. 10) as the three Showtime series with slots in the top 20.

• Some cities had a bit more of a hunger for comedy than others. Even though no sitcoms made the Xfinity national top 20, Saturday Night Live did end up in the top 20 among subscribers in San Francisco and — no shock here, given its political parodies — Washington, D.C. Viewers in Portland, Denver, and Minneapolis also put The Simpsons on their respective top-20 list.

• Reality competition series historically don’t do all that well in delayed viewing, whether via DVR or on-demand. But that seems to be changing: NBC’s The Voice (No. 14) and America’s Got Talent (No. 17) both finished in the top 20 this year. The Voice has taken a big hit in Nielsen’s linear ratings, so perhaps this is a sign that some audiences are simply watching the show in a different way now. As for other popular unscripted series, MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation (No. 8) replaced Teen Mom 2 as the network’s biggest on-demand show, while Lifetime’s Married at First Sight (No. 15) broke on to the chart for the first time this year.

• Comcast subscribers really dug Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The family-friendly comedy was the No. 1 movie of the year among audiences who paid specifically to watch it when it first arrived on TV last spring, as well as for those who watched for “free” once HBO added the film to its on-demand offerings this fall. Among the rest of the top movies purchased via on-demand in 2018, Black Panther finished No. 2, followed by Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, and The Greatest Showman.

• Who’s the leader of the kids’ shows made for VOD? Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, of course. The Disney Junior series was the No. 1 kids’ show on Xfinity, followed by SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol, Sesame Street, and The Loud House.

What America Loved to Watch in 2018