A research firm ranked the 20 most powerful entertainment brands right now based on 350,000 surveys over 2 years

Disney Plus‘The Mandalorian’
  • National Research Group conducted 350,000 online surveys with consumers since January 2019 to determine the top entertainment brands right now.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, NRG’s executive vice president of strategy, Ethan Titelman, explained that the list doesn’t necessarily rank the brands by popularity, but reflects a franchise’s “forward momentum.”
  • The list includes Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian,” Netflix’s “The Witcher,” and several Marvel Cinematic Universe brands.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The future of “Star Wars” is streaming.

Last week, National Research Group (NRG) released a robust study that, in part, identified what it called the 20 “most powerful” entertainment brands right now based on 350,000 surveys conducted with consumers since January 2019, primarily via emails through online advertising using a variety of survey sampling companies.

Disney Plus’ hit “Star Wars” live-action series, “The Mandalorian,” topped the list, followed by Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise, Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” and more.

In an interview with Business Insider, NRG’s executive vice president of strategy, Ethan Titelman, said that the list doesn’t necessarily rank the brands by popularity, though that is a factor. It moreso reflects a franchise’s potential heading into the new year and beyond, or its “forward momentum.”

“We want to understand the ingredients that make a franchise successful today,” Titelman said.

The survey asked consumers a variety of questions about entertainment brands across movies, TV, and video games, ultimately creating an analysis of hundreds of brands. The questions included how excited the consumer was for new content from that franchise, how recently they had engaged with the brand, and how they’d like to engage with it in the future (if it’s a movie franchise, for instance, if they’d like to see it branch off into TV or video games).

Notably absent from the list are Warner Bros. and DC brands like “Harry Potter” and “Batman” or major franchises like Universal’s “Jurassic Park.”

Titelman explained that “Batman” ranked No. 14, “Jurassic Park” No. 10, and “Harry Potter” No. 6 on NRG’s list of most “popular” brands. But they didn’t measure up in its “power” rankings, which measures excitement for future content rather than broad familiarity among consumers.

Disney was the company with the most powerful brands in the list.

More than half of the brands in the top 20 are from Disney and eight are from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the study counted each Marvel sub-brand as separate), showing that audiences are craving more content from the biggest movie franchise of all time after its long, coronavirus-related hiatus.

Hollywood disruptor Netflix cracked the top 10 with three brands: “Stranger Things,” “The Witcher,” and “Ozark.”

Netflix’s co-CEO Reed Hastings told The Hollywood Reporter in September that the company wants to build the kind of franchises Hollywood has like “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter,” but “has a long way to go.”

“The thing that many studios are able to do is create great franchises,” Hastings said. “We’re making great progress on that with ‘Stranger Things’ and other properties, but compared to ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Star Wars,’ we’ve got a long way to go.”

NRG said in its study that movie studios “are increasingly facing new franchise competition.”

The coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated Hollywood this year, has accelerated that, as studios have been experimenting with alternative release strategies to theatres. Disney debuted its “Mulan” reboot on Disney Plus at a premium fee while Warner Bros. “Wonder Woman 1984” and its entire slate of 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day they hit theatres.

Here are the top 20 “power brands” from NRG’s study:


20. “Hamilton”

Disney

“Hamilton” was as popular as ever this year despite Broadway being shut down due to the pandemic.

Originally slated for theatrical release in 2021, Disney opted to debut the filmed version of the hit musical on Disney Plus on July 3. The streamer saw a huge boost in sign-ups after “Hamilton” premiered.

It drove 7.4 times more sign-ups in the US over its first weekend compared with the previous four weekends in June, according to the analytics startup Antenna.


19. “The Lion King”

Walt Disney Studios

The original animated “Lion King” debuted 26 years ago, but the brand is just as recognisable as it was then thanks to Disney’s remake last year.

The photorealistic movie grossed a stunning $US1.6 billion at the global box office despite underwhelming reviews.

A followup is planned with the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” filmmaker Barry Jenkins set to direct.


18. “Coco”

Disney/ Pixar

Disney and Pixar’s “Coco” was released in 2017 to box-office success ($US807 million worldwide) and critical acclaim (97% Rotten Tomatoes critic score). But a sequel has not been announced.


17. “Spider-Man”

Sony Pictures Entertainment

The “Spider-Man” film rights are owned by Sony Pictures, which struck a deal last year with Disney and Marvel Studios after a brief feud for the web-crawling superhero to appear in a third Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

The MCU’s two Spider-Man movies so far, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” grossed nearly $US2 billion combined.

Sony is developing its own universe based on the Spider-Man-centric characters it owns film rights to, including a sequel to “Venom.”

The Spider-Man brand is strong outside of film, too, with comic books and a popular video-game series for PlayStation. The sequel to 2018’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” recently debuted for the PS4 and PS5.


16. “Doctor Strange”

Marvel

“Doctor Strange” grossed $US678 million at the global box office in 2016. It’s on the low end of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in that regard, but the character’s profile has been elevated thanks to appearances in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

A sequel called “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is scheduled for theatrical release in 2022. It will be directed by Sam Raimi, who directed the original “Spider-Man” trilogy.


15. “Toy Story”

Disney/Pixar

Pixar’s “Toy Story” franchise has been the animation studio’s biggest franchise, with “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 4” grossing more than $US1 billion worldwide.

Both won the Oscar for best animated feature and the former was nominated for the top prize, best picture.


14. “Mario Bros.”

Nintendo

Nintendo’s “Mario Bros.” franchise is the only video-game brand to appear on NRG’s list, showing its power among consumers.

The franchise has stepped out of video games, notably with the 1993 movie, “Super Mario Bros.” But it flopped financially.


13. “Iron Man”

Marvel

Iron Man appeared in other media like comics and television before 2008’s “Iron Man” made him a household name with general audiences.

“Iron Man 3,” the character’s last solo outing, grossed more than $US1 billion globally. And the character starred in four “Avengers” movies that all grossed more than $US1 billion.

The actor Robert Downey Jr ranked No. 31 on Forbes’ 2019 list of the highest-paid actors in the world with $US66 million, thanks mostly to his MCU salary.

The character, in film anyway, died in “Avengers: Endgame” last year, but the brand lives on in a recently rebooted comic-book series by writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Cafu. He also recently appeared in the “Avengers” video game.


12. “Thor”

Disney/Marvel Studios

Like Iron Man, Thor’s popularity among the wider public (non-comic-book readers) grew tremendously with his introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where he’s played by Chris Hemsworth.

His last solo outing, 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” grossed $US854 million worldwide.

Hemsworth is set to return as Thor in 2022 for “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi is also returning.


11. “Deadpool”

20th Century Fox

Before “Joker” took the top spot last year, both “Deadpool” movies were the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time (before inflation).

The movies were loosely part of the Fox movie studio’s “X-Men” franchise. Now that Disney owns the Fox studio, now called 20th Century Studios, not much has been said about the character’s big-screen exploits – until last month, when Deadline reported that the third film has found its writers and star Ryan Reynolds is set to return.


10. “Black Widow”

Marvel Studios

“Black Widow,” the character’s first solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is scheduled for theatrical release in May, a full year after its original release date.

But with Disney embracing streaming for its movie amid the pandemic, from “Mulan” to Pixar’s “Soul,” speculation has swirled about whether it would do the same for “Black Widow.”

A source with knowledge of Disney’s thinking, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorised to speak publicly about it, said that “everything is in consideration” for Disney Plus, including “Black Widow,” but no plans have been finalised.


9. “Spider-Verse”

Sony Pictures

Sony’s animated “Spider-Verse” franchise was introduced in 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which won the Oscar for best animated feature.

A sequel is expected to hit theatres in 2022.

The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2018 that an all-female spinoff was in the works, though “Spider-Verse” star Hailee Steinfeld, who voiced Spider-Gwen, told Entertainment Tonight in May that she hadn’t heard anything about the project.


8. “Ozark”

Netflix

Netflix’s “Ozark” really hit its stride with its most recent third season, which has a series-high 97% Rotten Tomatoes critic score.

But Netflix renewed the Emmy-winning series for a fourth and final season which will be split into two parts, with seven episodes each.


7. “The Witcher”

Netflix

“The Witcher” season one was Netflix’s biggest first season ever, with 76 million households watching it in its first month, Netflix said in January.

The fantasy series has been a huge hit for the streaming giant and Netflix is already building out its franchise potential. A prequel series, called “Blood Origin,” and an anime spinoff film are both in the works on top of season two.

“The Witcher” is based on the popular fantasy book series by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski that includes six novels and two collections of short stories. The books also inspired the hit video-game trilogy that concluded with “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” in 2015.


5. “Black Panther”

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Marvel’s “Black Panther” grossed more than $US1 billion in 2018 and became the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture.

The sequel, slated for release in 2022, hit a tragic setback when star Chadwick Boseman died in August after a private battle with cancer.

Marvel has been tight-lipped about the sequel, but The Hollywood Reporter reported that production is expected to start in July. Stars Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Winston Duke are expected to return, with Wright’s character Shuri potentially taking on “a more prominent role,” according to THR.


4. “John Wick”

Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s “John Wick” franchise, starring Keanua Reeves as a retired assassin who is brought back into the fold, has been the rare film series to gross more at the box office with each movie.

A fourth and fifth instalment have already been confirmed and a TV series, “The Continental,” is also in the works for Starz.


3. “Stranger Things”

Netflix

“Stranger Things” is without a doubt Netflix’s strongest TV brand. The series has been among the most in-demand shows in the US since its third season launched more than a year ago, according to Parrot Analytics, which measures audience demand.

Season three was the show’s most watched season, with 64 million households watching it in the first month, Netflix said last year.


2. “Avengers”

Marvel Studios

The “Avengers” series seemingly concluded with last year’s “Avengers: Endgame,” which became the highest grossing film of all time.

But the Avengers themselves will still be prominent throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a film slate set for the franchise through 2023 and Disney Plus shows in the works. The first of those, “WandaVision,” debuts in January.


1. “The Mandalorian”

Disney Plus

“The Mandalorian” is currently the most in-demand streaming series in the US and it’s not particularly close, according to Parrot Analytics.

The show also appeared on Nielsen’s two most recent lists of the top streaming titles in the US.

The former Disney CEO and now executive chairman Bob Iger teased the potential for “Mandalorian” spinoffs during an earnings call in February.

With Disney focusing on Disney Plus for “Star Wars” for the next few years, “The Mandalorian” will remain both the streamer’s and the franchise’s flagship brand.

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