From “Squid Game” to “Succession,” a look back on what captivated consumers (and Ad Age staffers) this year.
Much has been made about the so-called “streaming wars” and the decline of linear TV in the ad industry this year, but often overlooked in those conversations are the engrossing shows and films that drive viewers to spend hours binge-watching on their platform of choice.
As 2021 draws to a close, Ad Age compiled a list—thanks, in part, to our own staff chiming in—of the 10 most popular titles the world binge-watched this year, including the one stalwart program that’s appearing on this list for the second consecutive year.
To call “Squid Game” a hit would be an understatement. Almost as soon as Netflix released the Korean-language thriller series in September, audiences were hooked on the gory violence and twisting emotional plots—and advertisers quickly took notice, with brands from Heineken to Nutter Butter, to Hong Kong Airlines seizing on the show to borrow some pop-culture relevance.
‘The Morning Show’
Fans of this morning talk show-inspired drama series surely breathed a sigh of relief when the show’s second season began to trickle out one episode at a time on AppleTV+ in September, arriving nearly two years after season one. Critics’ reviews have been mixed, but it’s a favorite of binge-watchers; the series is “chaotic, uneven and ham-fisted, yet compulsively watchable,” The Guardian wrote.
This Netflix drama set in Regency-era Britain has, at the time of this writing, only released one season so far (which technically came out on Christmas Day 2020), but it is currently the second-most watched title that has ever debuted on the streaming service with a collective 82 million hours consumed to date. What other metric do you need as evidence of “Bridgerton’s” binge-ability?
‘The Beatles: Get Back’
A late entry on our list, this long-awaited Beatles documentary was released as a three-parter on Disney+ over Thanksgiving weekend, and has continued to enthrall audiences over the past couple of weeks with its intimate behind-the-scenes look at the band’s creative process (and near dissolution) as the quartet prepared for a then-upcoming album and concert project in January 1969.
This engaging comedy series about an out-of-his-depth coach is another AppleTV+ fan favorite that debuted in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a widely binge-watched season two arriving this past July. And an interesting bit of trivia for the marketers in our audience: Ted Lasso first appeared in a 2013 Brooklyn Brothers ad campaign for NBC’s Premier League soccer coverage.
‘The Flight Attendant’
Starring Kaley Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory” fame as the titular airline employee, this part-comedy, part-mystery thriller series premiered as an HBO Max original in the final weeks of 2020 and has captivated many viewers over the ensuing year—especially with a second season on the horizon in early 2022.
Based on a book of the same name by Lindy West, this award-nominated Hulu series following one woman’s body acceptance journey dropped its third and final season in May, but the show in its entirety seems to have attracted scores of binge-watchers throughout the year.
‘Great British Baking Show’
“The Great British Bake Off,” as it’s also known to our counterparts over in the U.K., was a surprise hit during the early months of COVID-19 thanks in part to its soothing presence; there’s little of the anger and tension that marks many American cooking competition series, just polite humor and delectable treats. Stateside, the show’s popularity hasn’t waned in 2021, with audiences still showing up and loving the so-called “GBBO” on Netflix and PBS.
The highly anticipated third season of HBO drama “Succession” dropped in October, and ratings suggest that fans of the dysfunctional Roy dynasty have been tuning in—as well as bingeing every episode in existence in the lead-up to it. There’s good reason for that: At the time of its latest premiere, it had been over two years since the season 2 finale in 2019, and views likely need a refresher.
‘Mare of Easttown’
HBO’s fan-favorite crime drama starring Kate Winslet only aired from mid-April to the end of May of this year, but that did nothing to dampen its appeal with viewers and critics alike. This summer, the seven-episode series was nominated for 16 Primetime Emmys and took home four, not to mention the dozens of other nods for Hollywood awards it received.
This article was written by Ethan Jakob Craft from Ad Age and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The content featured on https://www.directv.com/insider/ is editorial content brought to you by DIRECTV. While some of the programming discussed may now or in the future be available affiliates distribution services, the companies and persons discussed and depicted, and the authors and publishers of licensed content, are not necessarily associated with and do not necessarily endorse DIRECTV. When you click on ads on this site you may be taken to DIRECTV marketing pages that display advertising content. Content sponsored or co-created by programmers is identified as "Sponsored Content" or "Promoted Content."