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The most-streamed show of 2023 wasn't a Netflix original – but it's still a huge win for the streamer

Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams as Rachel and Mike on Suits
Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams as Rachel and Mike on "Suits."USA Network/Getty Images
  • Nielsen released data on the most-streamed shows in 2023, and "Suits" came out on top.

  • The top 10 were all licensed shows like "Suits" — as opposed to streaming originals.

  • Most of them were licensed by Netflix — showing the power of the "Netflix effect" once again.

The biggest television series of 2023, in your eyes, might have been "Beef" or "The Bear": a streaming original with a prestige tint and a bundle of Emmys and Golden Globes.

But last year was actually the year of "Suits," the legal drama that originally aired on USA Network from 2011 to 2019 — at least, according to Nielsen's 2023 streaming data.

The analytics firm released its fourth annual end-of-year streaming report, detailing the top television series and movies on streaming platforms in 2023. As a caveat, Nielsen's rankings are by minutes watched — meaning that longer series have an advantage. Still, it's noteworthy that the top 10 most-watched titles of 2023 were all long-running favorites, the vast majority of which premiered well over a decade ago.

Coming in at No. 1 is "Suits" on Netflix and Peacock (57.7 billion minutes). "Bluey" on Disney+ (43.9 billion), "NCIS" on Netflix and Paramount+ (39.4 billion), "Grey's Anatomy" on Netflix (38.6 billion), and "Cocomelon" on Netflix (36.3 billion) round out the top five. Other titles include stalwart favorites like "Gilmore Girls," "Friends," and "The Big Bang Theory."

Even the most-watched streaming-original series of the year — "Ted Lasso," with 16.9 billion minutes watched — couldn't crack the top 10 most-viewed television series.

Looking at the full list, the ultimate winner is clear: Netflix, which streams seven out of the 10 top acquired series on Nielsen's top 10 list (though not necessarily exclusively, as "Suits," "NCIS," and "Heartland" all stream simultaneously on other platforms).

As Business Insider previously reported, studios were more territorial with licensing out titles while they were building their own streaming platforms that demanded content. But licensing a show to another streamer means that there's cash coming in, and studios are more willing to take the check these days.

Landing on Netflix, in particular, can bring millions of new eyes to a show. According to The Hollywood Reporter, about 53 billion of the Nielsen-tracked minutes spent watching "Suits" occurred during the 28 weeks that it was available on both Netflix and Peacock. In comparison, only 4.6 billion were from the 25 weeks that it was only streaming on Peacock.

The strategy is paying off. As my colleague Lucia Moses wrote after Netflix's earnings call in January, Netflix is clearly winning the streaming wars, with over 100 million more subscribers than its closest competitor, Disney+. And while licensed series like "Suits" are an asset, Netflix's originals still drew huge viewership numbers, as shown in its first-ever viewership report released in December.

Netflix's success shines through in other metrics, too: Netflix has a lower churn rate, losing a smaller proportion of subscribers than other platforms, BI chief correspondent Peter Kafka reported.

The Nielsen data clearly demonstrates something we've known anecdotally for years: that the "Netflix effect" of revitalizing old properties and turning them into megahits is real. Its deep subscriber base means that simply being added to the platform and recommended to users can turn a show into a cultural phenomenon no matter how many years it's been off the air. And when there are hundreds of episodes at your disposal, it's easy to binge, and binge, and binge (ask me how much "Grey's Anatomy" I've watched in the past two months).

And as for "Suits" today? Its ascendance on Netflix has concrete effects — just ask series creator Aaron Korsh, who is currently developing a new companion series at NBCUniversal in the wake of his show's massive streaming success.

Read the original article on Business Insider