Back in the “old days,” when a lot more folks watched broadcast and cable television, periods like the end-of-year holidays were referred to as having high “HUT” levels — that is, a lot of houses using television.
That hasn’t changed in the streaming era.
December is always one of the biggest search-query months of the calendar year for Reelgood’s network, with consumers off work and school, often cocooning with family members and looking for something to watch to get them in the “spirit” or keep them there.
And relatedly, holiday movies have increasingly become a core part of the programming playbook for streamers, as each looks to grab a portion of the larger overall December audience. It’s programming strategy famously pioneered on basic cable by the Hallmark Channel, which built its powerful media-business brand on the strength of holiday-set, meet-cute-themed made-for-TV movie romcoms.
In the streaming era, Hallmark’s blueprint has been widely adopted.
For the week of December 19-25 last year, example, eight of the top 10 movies on the major U.S. subscription streaming platforms were Christmas-themed, according to Nielsen, with the 1990 classic Home Alone on Disney+ ranking just behind a huge Netflix hit, The Glass Onion.
It’s no surprise, then, that in addition to bolstering their holiday-themed catalogs, most of the major streamers have made big investments this year in original Yuletide-focused movie productions. This is despite the fact that overall movie catalog growth has slowed among the top streamers, according to recently published Reelgood data.
Just take a look at Reelgood’s curated — and expansive — list of holiday-themed movies and TV shows.
Here’s a quick rundown of the holiday programming strategies for some of the top U.S. subscription streaming services:
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Amazon has perhaps the broadest selection of classic holiday hits and newer themed originals.
Its vast catalog includes classic staples including Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, along with newer “classics” such as 1988’s Scrooged starring Bill Murray and 2007’s animated Shrek the Halls.
Notably, Amazon has augmented its deep bench of well-known, fabulously regarded holiday titles with new original productions, including the Eddie Murphy starrer Candy Cane Lane, which debuted on Dec. 1.
On Dec. 8, Amazon will premiere a sequel to the 2022 Asa Butterfield holiday hit Your Christmas or Mine. Also on that date, it’s premiering Warner Bros. Animation’s Luke Wilson-voiced comedy film Merry Little Batman.
Meanwhile, over on the free, ad-supported side of Amazon’s Prime Video empire, Freevee premiered the Dan Steele-penned, Leighton Meester-starrer EXmas back on Nov. 17.
Disney+ rivals Amazon in terms of catalog heft of bonafide holiday classics, recent-era soon-to-be-classics and new themed originals.
Not only does Disney+’s North American catalog include 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street, but the Disney-owned SVOD packs perhaps streaming’s best punch in terms of 1990s and aughts-era box-office holiday-themed hits, such as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Jingle All the Way and Tim Allen laugher The Santa Clause, just to name a few.
In fact, Disney+ is the only major U.S. subscription streaming service to carry the default modern Christmas classic, 1990’s Home Alone.
Disney+ holiday-themed originals, meanwhile, include filmmaker Tim Story’s Dashing Through the Snow starring Lil Rel Howery and Ludacris, the tween-targeted The Naughty Nine and Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Christmas: Cabin Fever.
Netflix commissioned three sizably star-powered Christmas-themed originals targeted to the 2023 holiday campaign. Romcom-themed Best. Christmas. Ever! starring Heather Graham, Jason Biggs and Brandy Norwood premiered back on Nov. 16, ranking as high as No. 2 on the top streaming platform’s English-language movie chart.
Freaky Friday-esque Family Switch starring Jennifer Garner and Ed Helms, which debuted Nov. 30, isn’t a “Christmas movie,” per se, but falls into the bucket with its family theme. Its premiere also ranked No. 2 among all Netflix movies.
Also debuting Nov. 30 on Netflix was DreamWorks Animation’s CGI comedy The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday, produced by the creative team behind TV series adaptions including The Penguins of Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.
The search term “Christmas” on Netflix will turn up a deep catalog of hundreds of holiday-themed movie and TV series titles. The Netflix’s catalog includes the Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye 1954 Paramount classic White Christmas, but the platform isn’t a go-to destination for bonafide holiday classics.
As has been the trend in recent years, it’s the original productions that drive Netflix’s always sizable December viewing. And the platform has begun to accumulate a deep bench of recent-year holiday originals, including 2018’s The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell, 2021 adventure drama A Boy Called Christmas, and last year’s romantic drama The Noel Diary starring Justin Hartley.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s holiday arsenal is bolstered by the deep Warner Bros. Pictures catalog, which includes A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf, just to name a few venerable holiday titles.
The media company, operating in more austerity these days under CEO David Zaslav, is somewhat bereft of new holiday originals, however, sporting only the Selena Gomez reality lifestyle special Selena + Chef: Home For the Holidays.
NBCUniversal just revealed that Peacock has tripled its subscriber size at 30 million paid users, and content investments are at the heart of that expansion.
Not only does Peacock have a few holiday classics laying around the vault, such as the always repeatable 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the platform this year is sporting a bonafide big-budget (for streaming) original, Genie, starring Melissa McCarthy and written by the romcom specialists behind Love Actually and Notting Hill.
Perhaps most impressive of all: Peacock has access to the entire Hallmark 2023 holiday movie catalog.
Disney, which now owns Hulu outright, is funneling its holiday-themed movie pipeline through Disney+.
But Hulu has a solid collection of staples, including (yup, again) Miracle on 34th Street, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf, The Polar Express and Die Hard (which is technically a Christmas movie, according to myriad social-media-infused arguments).