Amazon's The Boys is more popular than any of the Marvel Netflix shows, according to data analytics. The last decade has seen the superhero genre go from strength to strength - particularly on streaming services - and both Disney and Warner Bros. are now prioritizing superhero content for Disney+, Hulu, and of course the DC Universe app.
Fortunately, Marvel and DC aren't the only comic book publishers, and rivals like Amazon and Netflix are commissioning lesser-known properties from other publishers that are already proving to be a hit. The Umbrella Academy became the biggest digital show in the US, and there's evidence that Amazon's The Boys is performing even better.
But just how popular is The Boys? Data analytics firm Parrot Analytics has provided exclusive information to Screen Rant, comparing The Boys to the first seasons of the various Marvel Netflix shows. This is pretty much a like-for-like comparison, given Marvel Netflix's series were aimed at the same kind of demographic, and had a similar R-rating.
The Marvel Netflix Shows Followed A Traditional Binge Pattern
In order to understand the comparison, we first have to analyze the trends and patterns for Marvel Netflix. That begins with Daredevil season 1, which released in April 2015, and saw comparably low demand. It's easy to understand why; back in 2015, streaming services weren't well known for their original superhero shows, and frankly Daredevil was viewed as something of an experiment. It proved to be a hit, establishing Marvel Netflix as a discrete brand in its own right. Initial demand for Jessica Jones season 1 was higher, and according to Parrot, interest peaked with the first season of Luke Cage. Again, that makes sense; Luke Cage was marketed as something of a cultural event.
Marvel Entertainment's SVP of Original Programming and Production, Karim Zreik, recently noted that each of these four series appealed to a different demographic. "Each show, for us, had a different demographic," Zreik explained. "Each show is very specific. Women took to Jessica Jones, men took to Daredevil, young men took to Iron Fist because of the age of the lead character." For all that's the case, though, demand seems to have followed pretty much the same pattern for each series. It peaked in the week immediately after release, and then settled down to a base level within four to five weeks. This is actually a typical pattern for Netflix, who tend to drop every episode of a season at once, although it's interesting to note that all four Marvel Netflix shows settled to a very similar base level. That suggests the base are the hardcore superhero fans, who'll remain engaged long after a season has aired.
The Boys Doesn't Fit The Pattern
The Boys, however, follows some very different patterns. Demand was already measuring as higher in the run-up to season 1's release, and it then benefited from a strong marketing push in the final week. This was clearly a success, because according to Parrot, demand increased by a factor of three during that marketing campaign. This contrasts neatly with Netflix's approach; the streaming giant didn't really spend much money on marketing, trusting to the Netflix algorithm to recommend shows to viewers. As a result, there was no real pre-release bounce for a Marvel Netflix series due to advertising.
But that isn't where the differences end. The Boys was released in the same way as all four Marvel Netflix shows, with all episodes dropping at once, but it didn't follow the traditional streaming pattern at all. Instead, interest continued to increase over the next fortnight after release, peaking two weeks later. This is probably related to strong word-of-mouth, but may also reflect Amazon's continued marketing of the series. Surprisingly, demand then remained at an elevated level for much of the first month. It's shown signs of dropping towards a base level now, but that is likely to be far higher than the Marvel Netflix one.
Why Is The Boys So Popular?
Of course, the obvious question is just why The Boys has proven to be so popular. In part, it's simply because the show is just that good; showrunner Eric Kripke has put together a tremendous cast, and the scripts are tight and efficient. The Boys season 1 is only eight episodes in length, neatly avoiding all the pacing problems that were associated with Marvel Netflix's 13-episode seasons. The release is also perfectly timed; the superhero genre is far more mainstream in 2019 than it was even in 2015, and superhero tropes have been absorbed into popular culture. The Boys subverts all these tropes in entertaining, original, and occasionally uncomfortable ways. The script adapts a classic comic book story, resetting it as a David-versus-Goliath narrative with a remarkable amount of heart. It's an irreverent parody of countless Marvel and DC superheroes.
Meanwhile, unlike Netflix, Amazon believes in promoting its TV shows. The Boys' marketing was a highlight of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, with panels, screenings, parties, and the Amazon Prime Video Experience. This provided an immersive world for attendees to engage in solving crimes and entering locations from The Boys, creating the sense that superheroes had been absorbed into the real world. It was a refreshingly meta approach, and it matched the tone and style of the show perfectly. Parrot's data shows a surge of interest accompanying a final marketing push in the week before release.
Interestingly, though, Amazon Prime Video's head of marketing Mike Benson told Muse that he was careful not to over-promote The Boys. "I think marketing needs to underpromise slightly," he explained, "so the show can overdeliver, because I think that drives word of mouth." Benson's approach seems to have paid off, given demand for the show increased in the fortnight after release. That indicates the impact of positive reviews, as well as strong word of mouth.
The incredible demand for The Boys is an important reminder that there's a lot more to comic book adaptations than just Marvel and DC. The original comics may be well-received, but they're far less well-established as a brand than the likes of Daredevil or even Iron Fist. The Boys proves that a well-made, well-marketed superhero TV series inspired by a lesser-known brand can still compete - and even perform better than the inaugural seasons of the Marvel Netflix range.