Legacy titles like ”Game of Thrones“ and ”Breaking Bad“ generate strong demand long after new episodes stop dropping — but not every streamer is delivering
New releases get the marketing momentum and media buzz. But older titles that stand the test of time, often called “legacy” shows, can be exceptionally valuable in the streaming era. Thanks to their rewatchability and appeal to different generations, these shows can be key to convincing audiences to stay subscribed.
We’re defining “legacy” shows as one that had its first season before 2012, ended before 2020 and continues to generate strong demand according to Parrot Analytics‘ data, which takes into account consumer research, streaming, downloads and social media, among other engagement.
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By that measure, the most in-demand legacy show in the U.S. is “Game of Thrones,” with 80.6 times more demand than the average show in the last quarter of 2022. The show, which ran from 2011 to 2019, is still one of the most successful shows in television history. It received a boost in attention this year from the long-awaited release of its prequel “House of the Dragon.”
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” ranked second on the list, followed by CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.” The top three legacy shows have a sequel or a prequel that has been current in the last years, showing the importance of releasing new shows to revive and maintain demand for older elements of a franchise.
Beyond the top two, three genres round out the list: sitcoms (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Office,” “Friends”), animes (“Dragon Ball Z,” “Bleach,” “Naruto”) and children’s animations (“My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”).
The vast majority of legacy shows are licensed titles from networks, with ABC, NBC, Nickelodeon and CBS as lead providers of these shows to streaming services. The chart below reveals which services rely most on content that premiered before 2012. HBO Max had 34.5% of its catalog demand coming from legacy shows in 2022 Q4, while these shows made up 24.4% of the platform’s catalog.
The gap between legacy show demand and supply is higher for HBO Max than any other streamer besides Netflix, which has a very small share of legacy shows in its catalog. This could indicate that legacy shows on HBO Max outperform legacy shows in rivals’ catalogs. HBO Max’s strength in legacy content comes from the many successful shows from HBO that are available on the service, including “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” shows that have perennial demand.
Other services that rely heavily on legacy content include Peacock Premium, Paramount+ and Hulu. Those three benefit from legacy shows produced by a network that falls under the same corporate umbrella. In the case of Peacock Premium, a large share of the legacy shows on its catalog come from NBC, which includes hits like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” Paramount+ has a large number of shows from Paramount Global-owned Nickelodeon and Hulu, majority-owned by Disney, which come with the benefit of Fox content like “Futurama” and “The X-Files.”
Netflix is a special case. Once the home of licensed hits like “The Office,” the dominant streamer now has relatively few legacy shows on its catalog as rivals have moved to take back legacy IP for their own services. It still has some well-known licensed hits like “Breaking Bad” and “Seinfeld.” And Netflix has been producing or acquiring shows long enough that it has its own legacy catalog, including “Black Mirror, “Arrested Development” and “Trailer Park Boys.”