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The Numbers For The Snyder Cut Are Causing Some Serious Excitement

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Is Zack Snyder's Justice League a hit? It seems like it, based on the anecdotal evidence of buzz and conversation around HBO Max's streaming-exclusive director's cut of the DC Comics superhero epic. But since streaming services generally don't release detailed viewer data — and when they do say how many people watched something, there's no reliable way to check it (40 million people watched Sex Education? If you say so, Netflix, we'll have to take your word for it) — people who want to quantify the success of a piece of streaming entertainment have a harder time doing it. When trying to measure the popularity of a streaming movie or show, there are no easy numbers like box-office grosses for theatrical releases or Nielsen ratings for broadcast TV shows. The only ways to try to quantify it require muddled estimates of ambiguous metrics that don't provide anything close to a complete picture. We will probably never know for sure how many people watched Ben Affleck's Batman finally meet Jared Leto's Joker, and all the hours leading up to that moment.

That being said, the grain-of-salt numbers we do have should be very exciting for anyone invested in the success of the Snyder Cut. Bloomberg reports that downloads of the HBO Max mobile app increased 64% for the week ending March 28 over the previous week, according to app data analysis service Apptopia. 1.48 million people downloaded the app — though as Forbes notes, that number isn't necessarily "new subscribers," as it may include users who already had access to HBO Max, but hadn't yet activated the mobile app. Bloomberg also reports an 8.9% increase in users opening the app, a total of 119.1 million launches.

Those numbers sound big, but let's put them in context.

Making sense of the data

They are indeed good numbers — especially compared to HBO Max's competitors. 

For the same week, Bloomberg reports 69.7 million app sessions (a session is another term for a user opening an app) for Disney+, an increase of 0.4% from the previous week, and a 4% increase in mobile app downloads. Disney's streaming service already has over 100 million subscribers, according to The Verge, while HBO Max is projected to have between 67 and 70 million subscribers by the end of the year (via CNBC). So HBO Max's app outperformed Disney+ the same week Disney+ premiered a new Marvel limited series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Not too shabby.

No other app showed that kind of user growth in the week that ended on March 28, according to Apptopia's data. Netflix app downloads actually declined by 1%, though Netflix's market dominance means that growth will naturally be slower. Netflix has over 200 million subscribers worldwide, according to CNBC (and 40 million of them clicked play on Sex Education? Sorry, that number just seems ludicrous).

There are also positive numbers for people streaming Zack Snyder's Justice League on other devices, too. SambaTV, another third-party data analytics app, reports that 2.2 million U.S. households and 954,000 U.K. households watched the film on "opted-in SmartTVs with 'automatic content recognition' technology" in its first week of release (via Forbes). The limited nature of that data set means the actual number is likely much higher.

The Falcon and the who and the what now?

The viewer numbers for Zack Snyder's Justice League are below Wonder Woman 1984's first-week viewer estimate — over 3 million American households watched Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman sequel on HBO Max in the week between Christmas and New Year's. Fortunately, Wonder Woman 1984 is more of a sibling competitor. The actual threat came from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which Zack Snyder's Justice League appears to have handily overcome. 

According to Deadline, SambaTV found 1.8 million households watched at least five of ZSJL's 242 minutes in the movie's first three days of release, while 1.7 million households watched the Marvel limited series in the same time frame. So there is some data to back up the feeling that the Snyder Cut hit harder than The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – at least in their shared opening weekend. Justice League's victory is also pretty impressive in light of the fact that the Avengers: Endgame sequel series is Disney+'s biggest series premiere yet, according to Variety, posting higher first weekend numbers than WandaVision and The Mandalorian.

Of course, the viewer numbers themselves aren't the most important metric for streaming services. The most important things are sign-ups and subscriber retention. It's a little too early to say if the $70 million Warner Bros. put up to finish Zack Snyder's Justice League was money well spent, in terms of driving and retaining HBO Max subscriptions. We may never know the film's profit and loss. Even thinking about how to calculate that is complicated, and maybe it doesn't matter. If the Snyder Cut's true purpose was to plant positive feelings about HBO Max in the minds of millions of people, AT&T — the parent company of the WarnerMedia conglomerate — is probably happy with the result.