Netflix’s own Lucifer and its acquired Criminal Minds library topped Nielsen’s rankings of the most streamed series of 2021, in terms of total minutes viewed — though drilling down into the numbers can spin an alternate story.
Lucifer placed No. 1 on Nielsen’s U.S. ranking of streaming originals, amassing 18.3 billion minutes viewed across its complete library of 93 episodes. Coming in second was Netflix’s Squid Game (16.4 billion/9 episodes), followed by Netflix’s The Great British Baking Show (with 13.6 million/75 episodes), Netflix’s Virgin River (12.9 billion/30 episodes), and Netflix’s Bridgerton (12.4 billion/8 episodes).
(Rounding out the Top 10 original series were YOU, Cobra Kai, The Crown, Longmire and The Handmaid’s Tale.)
But as you can see from the episode counts above, an argument could be made that Squid Game and Bridgerton were the most voraciously consumed series, if you look at total minutes per episode — each averaged more than 1.5 billion, compared to Lucifer‘s 200 million.
Among non-Netflix fare, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale placed highest, at No. 10 with 8.6 billion minutes/46 available episodes — though going by minutes/episode, Disney+’s WandaVision performed strongest (averaging 800 million).
Turning to acquired series (that originated elsewhere but landed on a streaming service), Criminal Minds was No. 1 with 33.9 billion minutes across its complete library of 322 episodes, followed by Cocomelon (33.3 billion/15 episodes), Grey’s Anatomy (32.6 billion/382 available episodes) and NCIS (29.5 billion/354 available episodes). But again, looking at minutes/episode, Cocomelon far and away performed best, averaging more than 2.2 billion, followed by Netflix-bound Manifest‘s 500 million.
Nielsen’s end-of-2021 report also ranked the most viewed movies, and Disney+’s Luca led the pack with 10.6 billion minutes viewed, followed by another three from Disney+: Moana (8.9 billion), Raya and the Last Dragon (8.3 billion) and Frozen II (5.8 billion). More adult fare rounded out the Top 5, in the form of Netflixs Red Notice (which garnered 5.5 billion minutes). There’s surely a revised chart to be made here based on running time for each, but I will leave those numbers for a movie site to crunch!
Due to a Nielsen error, a previous version of this story reported slightly different episode counts and minutes viewed for some series.