‘Suits’ and ‘Friends’: Here’s What Americans Streamed in 2023

Last year, studios continued to pull back how much they spend on new TV shows. A pair of strikes effectively shut down Hollywood for several months, disrupting new releases of television shows and movies.

And yet Americans kept on streaming.

The time that people watched streaming services from their TV sets last year jumped 21 percent from 2022, according to a year-end review on streaming trends by Nielsen, the media research firm. There were nearly a million television shows and movies for Americans to choose from on over 90 streaming services.

What did they watch? A lot of reruns, it turns out.

Here’s a look at some of the trends.

It’s well established that “Suits,” the USA Network’s legal procedural that aired from 2011 to 2019, was an unexpected streaming hit last year. Netflix subscribers began devouring it over the summer. They shattered records in the process.

“Suits,” with 57.7 billion minutes of viewing time in 2023, eclipsed both “The Office” in 2020 and “Stranger Things” in 2022 (when its fourth season was released) as the most-streamed show on television sets in a single year, according to Nielsen. (The research firm began releasing yearly figures in 2020.)

“Suits” was probably new to most viewers who watched it on Netflix, said Brian Fuhrer, a senior vice president of product at Nielsen.

“For all intents and purposes, ‘Suits’ was an original on Netflix because that viewing cohort, you know, certainly didn’t watch it on USA,” he said. “When it flows on this really broad footprint across Netflix, it might as well be an original.”

The show’s influence could last for years. Ted Sarandos, co-chief executive of Netflix, recently speculated that because of the show’s popularity, networks and studios would begin ordering “a bunch of lawyer shows.”

“Cocomelon” enjoyed the No. 1 position for children’s shows for each of the previous two years.

Not anymore. “Bluey” is now the king of children’s TV shows, with 43.9 billion minutes streamed in 2023, comfortably outpacing “Cocomelon.”

Children’s shows rely on a nearly endless diet of repeat viewing, and Mr. Fuhrer said there was probably “some degree of burnout” with “Cocomelon.”

There is a caveat: “Bluey” is more popular with slightly older children — ages 6 and up, Mr. Fuhrer said. “Cocomelon” is more popular with children who are 5 or under. The catch? Nielsen only tracks viewers who are 2 or older.

It is no secret that older network shows are popular on streaming. Year after year, shows like “NCIS” and “Grey’s Anatomy” populate Nielsen’s most-streamed lists. (And they all benefit from having hundreds of episodes, driving up the total watching time.)

But the share of older shows went up even more last year. “Friends,” for instance, had 14 billion minutes’ worth of streaming time in 2022. But last year, the show, which streams on Max, was streamed for 25 billion minutes. (The series exploded in popularity after the unexpected death of one of its stars, Matthew Perry, in October.)

Original shows were less popular. Last year, the 10 most-watched original shows accounted for 134 billion minutes of viewing time, a 32 percent decline from the top 10 originals in 2022.

Studios are again freely renting out TV shows to Netflix, after years of holding back content for their own streaming services, and that was a factor, too, Mr. Fuhrer said. Warner Bros. licensed “Young Sheldon” to Netflix in November, and the show quickly started putting up huge numbers.

And more is coming: The HBO classic “Sex and the City” will come to Netflix in April.

Apple TV+ has a smaller footprint than many streaming platforms, but it still gets some bragging rights.

The latest season of “Ted Lasso,” which was released in 2023 and widely believed to be the show’s final one, was the No. 1 streaming original show, with 16.9 billion minutes streamed. Mr. Fuhrer said the run time of its episodes, which were mostly an hour for the third season last year, played a role.

Netflix series like “The Night Agent,” “Ginny & Georgia,” “Virgin River” and “Love Is Blind” took top spots in the Nielsen list, as did “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” from Prime Video and the Disney+ “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian.”

The most-streamed movie in 2023 was the 2016 film “Moana” from Disney. The movie took the top slot for the first time, outdoing the 2022 best performer, “Encanto,” another Disney film, which was No. 2 last year.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” a 2023 film streaming on Netflix and Peacock, took the No. 3 slot. “Elemental,” on Disney+, was No. 4.

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