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HBO Max Tops December's Streaming Power Rankings

Netflix holds steady, and a late-month entry could return Disney+ to the catbird seat come January.
  • Photos: HBO Max, Disney+
    Photos: HBO Max, Disney+

    At the end of each month, Primetimer's Joe Reid surveys the undulating fortunes of the eight major streaming platforms for our Streaming Power Rankings.

    Hawkeye and The Beatles propelled Disney+ to the top of last month's rankings, but this month's big winner had shows that got people talking (and stocks plummeting).

    A reminder: our streaming power rankings are calculated based on the following criteria: new shows (i.e. shows that premiered, or premiered new seasons), projects that were announced, and bonus points (and/or demerits) that take into account things like high-profile cancellations, awards attention, or significant good/bad buzz.

    1. HBO MAX

    Previous Rank: 7

    Premieres: HBO MAX enjoyed both the most highly anticipated series premiere of the month of December and one of the most critically acclaimed premieres. They were not the same show. Critics were not bowled over by And Just Like That, the reboot of Sex and the City, but the show did dominate the news cycle for much of the month, with spoilery talk of a big death in the premiere episode leading to a steep drop in Peloton's stock price. Receiving a much warmer reaction (from critics, anyway) was the post-apocalyptic limited series Station Eleven, which earned perhaps the most glowing reviews of any show this month. Grade: A

    Projects Announced: While we were thrilled to hear that queer comedians Cole Escola and Jeffrey Self will be reuniting for the series Bunny & Clyde, this month's big announcement was that Colin Farrell will indeed be reprising his role as the Penguin from the upcoming film The Batman in a spinoff series on HBO Max. If the DC comics universe is serious about competing with Marvel, expanding into streaming would seem to be their next step, and Farrell is a strong get. Grade: A-

    Bonus Points/Demerits: The Mindy Kaling-produced comedy The Sex Lives of College Girls got renewed for a second season, and we got a look at the trailer for The Tourist, a BBC co-produced miniseries starring Jamie Dornan, coming in February. Grade: B

    2. Netflix

    Previous Rank: 2

    Premieres: Another month where Netflix nearly wins the day by sheer force, which is to say with an avalanche of content. December saw the returns of a bunch of high-profile Netflix series, including The Witcher, Emily in Paris, Money Heist, and Cobra Kai (which arrives on December 31st). New series were more of a mixed bag, with three reality series — Twentysomethings: Austin, Selling Tampa, and Coming Out Colton — getting the bulk of attention. Grade: B

    Projects Announced: In addition to inking overall deals with Spike Lee and Megan Thee Stallion, Netflix ordered an international espionage series Treason, from the co-writer of Bridge of Spies and starring Charlie Cox (Daredevil) and Olga Kurylenko (Black Widow). Also, Oscar-winning filmmaker Bill Condon is going to make a biographical drama series about the late Frank Sinatra. Grade: A-

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Good news for fans of Outer Banks (renewed!). Bad news for fans of Julie and the Phantoms (cancelled!). Grade: B-

    3. Paramount+

    Previous Rank: 5

    Premieres: Paramount+ served several corners of its audience this month. There were two comedy presentations from long-running Comedy Central properties that attempted to riff on current events (South Park: Post-COVID: The Return of COVID and Reno 911!: The Hunt for QAnon) and an extension of VH1's drag universe with the live singing competition Queen of the Universe. The month's biggest entry, however, was 1883, the prequel series to TV's most-watched least-heralded show, Yellowstone. Grade: B

    Projects Announced: The major P+ news this month came in the form of big stars joining their series. Michael Shannon will star as George Jones opposite Jessica Chastain's Tammy Wynette in the upcoming George & Tammy. Meanwhile, Paramount's Kansas City, the hugely anticipated teaming of Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan and Boardwalk Empire creator Terrence Winter cast Sylvester Stallone as its lead. Grade: B

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Why Women Kill was renewed for a third season. Also, both Evil and The Good Fight scored big nomination totals from the Critics Choice Awards; both shows earned five nods apiece. Grade: B+

    4. Apple TV+

    Previous Rank: 8

    Premieres: The streaming home for A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered a brand new Peanuts holiday special this month, Peanuts: Auld Lang Syne. Speaking of holiday specials, Ted Lasso released a surprise claymation short-film holiday special. And on the movie side of things, the streamer released Swan Song, a Mahershala Ali-starring film that earned him a surprise Golden Globe nomination. Grade: B-

    Projects Announced: Big month for Apple TV+ here: Alfonso Cuaron and his Gravity cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are reuniting for the new series Disclaimer, starring Cate Blanchett and Kevin Kline. There's also the Simon Kinberg/Colin Farrell series Sugar, about a private detective. Grade: A

    Bonus Points/Demerits: It wasn't a premiere, but Dickinson ended its run as one of TV's most consistently acclaimed shows, another feather in Apple's cap. Grade: A-

    5. Peacock

    Previous Rank: 3

    Premieres: Peacock continued to leverage NBC Universal IP with holiday specials based on The Real Housewives (The Housewives of the North Pole) and Days of Our Lives (A Very Salem Christmas), as well as the Saturday Night Live spinoff series Macgruber. They also installed Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg as the host of the new baking competition Baking It, an ingenius idea if ever there was one. Grade: B

    Projects Announced: Search Party writer Sabrina Jalees will be making a new TV show for Peacock with executive producer Greg Berlanti. Grade: B

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Will Smith's upcoming Fresh Prince reboot series will premiere on Super Bowl Sunday. Meanwhile, AP Bio was cancelled. Grade: B

    6. Disney+

    Previous Rank: 1

    Premieres: After topping our streaming rankings in November, Disney+ went mostly quiet this month, dropping the remaining episodes of Hawkeye, and premiering the new Keke Palmer-fronted reality series Foodtastic. The month's biggest gun has yet to be revealed in: a new series from the Star Wars universe, The Book of Boba Fett. The series premieres Wednesday December 29th. Whether it was worth the wait or not will largely be determined by viewers in the new year. Grade: B+

    Projects Announced: Meet the Mayhems is set to be a live-action comedy about a family of supervillains. D+ also resuscitated a drama pilot about a teacher who helps her students remake The Goonies previously passed on by FOX. Grade: C+

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Pop star Olivia Rodrigo returning for the third season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series sure feels like a coup. Grade: B

    7. Amazon Prime

    Previous Rank: 6

    Premieres: The final season of The Expanse rounds out Amazon's pickup of the cult fave sci-fi series. Harlem, the series about four single Black women in New York City managed to draw favorable comparisons to Sex and the City. And One Day at a Time executive producer Gloria Calderon Kellett returned to streaming with her new series With Love. Grade: B

    Projects Announced: Diabolical, a spinoff of Amazon's Emmy-nominated dark superhero series The Boys will delve into "unseen stories within The Boys universe." Grade: B-

    Bonus Points/Demerits: We got new trailers for the upcoming season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (back for the first time in over two years) and the upcoming A Very British Scandal starring The Crown's Claire Foy. Grade: B-

    8. Hulu

    Previous Rank: 4

    Premieres: The Chloe Grace Moretz sci-fi film Mother/Android and new seasons of PEN15 (which turns out to be its last) and Letterkenny were the highlights of a rather sparse December for Hulu. Grade: B-

    Projects Announced: The good news is that a streaming platform has finally greenlit a pizza-baking competition series, which Hulu is calling Best in Dough. The bad news is that Wells adams from The Bachelor franchise will be hosting it. Still, what a great title. Grade: B

    Bonus Points/Demerits: Cara Delevinge is joining the season two of Only Murders in the Building, an oddly flashy casting turn for a show that gets such great mileage out of character actors and Broadway vets. Grade: C+

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: HBO Max, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Prime Video