Netflix is the king of mediocre streaming-TV series in the US, study suggests

“Ozark” is firmly middle of the road.
“Ozark” is firmly middle of the road.
Image: Jessica Miglio/Netflix
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Netflix’s scripted original series are turning out to be remarkably middle of the road.

The streaming-video service, which was the first of its peers to go all in on original content, hasn’t been getting much love from critics, an analysis by Streaming Observer shows. The publication found that Netflix’s overall library of scripted originals averaged lower scores from critics on the review-aggregation sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic than series from rivals Amazon and Hulu.

Streaming Observer looked at the scores for scripted US original series released through August. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic both score titles on a scale of 1-100.

On Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, which measures the share of positive or “fresh” reviews from critics, Netflix’s originals averaged 74%, slightly below the 76% Amazon Prime originals scored, and the 78% Hulu’s originals received. Netflix’s Master of None and Dear White People were among the best-rated original series, and the widely panned Insatiable was among the worst. Shows like Ozark and Altered Carbon ranked in the middle.

Netflix also trailed Hulu and Amazon on Metacritic, which weighs its consensus scores to value reviews from respected critics more highly. It tends to be a bit more critical.

The last time Streaming Observer analyzed ratings of originals from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, Netflix led the pack and Hulu wasn’t even ranked because so few of its shows had been reviewed by critics. That was in 2016, when all three companies were still just beginning to produce and procure more original content. Netflix released its first true original, House of Cards, in 2013, and ignited the shift toward original productions in streaming video.

Now, Netflix has far more original content than its two rivals. Streaming Observer analyzed roughly 60 original scripted series from Netflix as part of the study, compared to 24 from Amazon and 18 from Hulu. The sheer volume of Netflix’s output may have led to its overall lower score. Netflix has said that it plans to take more shots on originals, and acknowledged that this would probably lead to more misses as well.

The company also has been investing more in the kind of programming that wasn’t included in this study, namely international programs like the Indian production Sacred Games or the German series Dark, along with unscripted series and kids shows. Those types of content aren’t reviewed as often by US critics and therefore weren’t part of the analysis.