While Tiger King has dominated social media in the age of social distancing, Netflix has revealed that the bizarre documentary series is actually not the most-streamed Netflix Original Series. Instead, Ozark's third season has overtaken Tiger King in what passes for "ratings" at the streaming giant, who are notoriously opaque with specific numbers. Ozark stars Jason Bateman as the patriarch of a family that finds itself coming together after a money-laundering scheme goes wrong and they are pursued by Mexican cartels. Nielsen is now reporting that Ozark tripled Tiger King's first-day numbers, averaging 975,000 U.S. viewers on March 27, versus 280,000 for Tiger King on March 20.
Tiger King has the benefit of being stand-alone, whereas Ozark's third season has both the benefit of a dedicated fan base built up over the show's first two critically-acclaimed seasons, and the disadvantage of requiring "homework" for casual fans to understand it. The show will likely not have the same audience retention over time (by percentage) that Tiger King has enjoyed, although given how much higher the numbers are starting, that might not matter.
"While surprise new hits like Tiger King have dominated news coverage and the cultural zeitgeist as of recent, streaming platforms are releasing new seasons of established content to great success as well," Nielsen summarized the situation (via Variety).
Created by Bill Dubuque, Ozark stars Bateman as Marty Byrde, a financial planner who relocates his family from Chicago to a summer resort community in the Ozarks. With wife Wendy and their two kids in tow, Marty is on the move after a money-laundering scheme goes wrong, forcing him to pay off a substantial debt to a Mexican drug lord in order to keep his family safe. While the Byrdes' fate hangs in the balance, the dire circumstances force the fractured family to reconnect.
In August of 2018, the debut of Ozark's second season drew 314,000 on its first day -- a fraction of the third-season premiere, but still higher than Tiger King and most other shows on the streaming giant. The series also expanded its social media footprint from seasons two to three by more than 1000%, making it the #3 most talked-about series during its release window.
As it is with TV, the Nielsen numbers can be misleading and do not tell the whole story. Representing only American audiences who view on set-top devices or PCs, Nielsen misses the international market as well as users who prefer to stream on their mobile device. Still, after years of resisting Nielsen, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has come around them somewhat in recent years, likely becuase as the "old man" of the streaming community, Netflix stands to gain compared to the upstarts like Disney+ and HBO Max who will be competing for attention in the streaming marketplace in the coming months and years.