According to Nielsen, a world leader in audience research, data, and analytics, the Netflix blockbuster Stranger Things became the most popular television show in the United States in 2022.
The sci-fi series climbed to that top, recording 52 billion minutes of viewing in 2022, the most since 2020 when audiences watched 57.1 billion minutes of NBC’s The Office due to COVID-19 restrictions.
At the same time, the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things has only 34 episodes compared to 192 episodes of The Office.
According to Netflix, Stranger Things became the most watched English series in the first four weeks after its release, with the fourth season gaining 1.35 billion hours of viewing worldwide in the first 28 days. It is followed by Wednesday, which, according to Netflix, collected 1.24 billion hours of viewing during the same period.
While original content attracted large audiences, older series continued to enjoy huge popularity on streaming platforms. The second most popular show in 2022 was NCIS, the CBS crime drama, with 38.1 billion minutes watched over 356 episodes on Netflix.
In 2021, the CBS series Criminal Minds, which aired from 2005 to 2020, became the most watched show in the United States on Netflix (33.9 billion minutes watched).
The children’s show CoComelon was in third place in the rating of the most popular programs in the USA with 37.8 billion minutes of viewing. It’s followed by Netflix’s original series Ozark, starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, with its fourth and final season arriving on the streaming service in 2022.
The top 10 most popular programs for 2022 include the animated film Encanto from Disney+; reruns of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix; Criminal Minds (which was available on Netflix until mid-2022 and is currently streaming on Hulu and Paramount+); the animated children’s show Bluey on Disney+; reruns of Gilmore Girls and Seinfeld on Netflix.
In total, Americans watched more than 19.4 million years of content last year, up 27% from 15 million years in 2021, according to Nielsen.
Encanto became the most popular movie of the year. The film, with original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, premiered on Disney+ in December 2021, and during 2022 it amassed 27.4 billion minutes watched (equivalent to 269 million times).
Encanto more than doubled the viewing time of the next most popular movies, Pixar’s Turning Red (also on Disney+) and Universal/Illumination’s Sing 2 on Netflix.
Note that Nielsen uses an audio-based content recognition methodology to track a subset of households with TVs, which excludes mobile devices and PCs. Based on this data, Nielsen extrapolates estimated total US streaming viewing for platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon’s Prime Video, HBO Max, Peacock, Pluto TV, Apple TV+ and YouTube.