The Rings of Power Addresses Negative Viewership Data Ahead of Season 2

New viewership numbers are a very concerning reality check for Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power...

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1
Photo: Amazon Prime Video

This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.

The Rings of Power was always going to be a controversial topic among Lord of the Rings fans, especially for the way it set out to expand the story of Middle-earth beyond J.R.R. Tolkien‘s original work. While the bones of the Amazon series’ story come from The Appendices of The Lord of the Rings books, the show also introduces whole new characters and events as well as origin stories for established heroes and villains that don’t exist in the beloved writer’s legendarium. Some viewers have dismissed The Rings of Power as Tolkien “fan fiction,” while others defend the series as a great way to dive into unexplored corners of Middle-earth history, the tumultuous Second Age in this case.

Whatever side you’re on, there’s no denying that The Rings of Power enjoyed the kind of attention major blockbusters dream of in the lead up to its first season, challenged only by another TV giant, Game of Thrones‘ own prequel spinoff House of the Dragon. It was also one of the biggest releases of the year in 2022, breaking records for Amazon Prime Video with its two-episode premiere, and easily dominating Nielsen streaming ratings for its first week.

But did folks come back for more in the weeks that followed that impressive start? Well, according to a new report, it sounds like The Rings of Power lost quite a few viewers, much more than it would like, as the season progressed.

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Concerning viewership data released by THR reveals that less than half of US and international viewers actually watched the entire first season. According to the outlet, only 37 percent of the US audience finished The Rings of Power season 1, while only 45 percent of international viewers were along for the ride until the very end. With Amazon reportedly shelling out $1 billion dollars for the series, allegedly making it the most expensive TV show ever made, the first season seems to have fallen short. Even a 50 percent completion rate “would be a solid but not spectacular result,” per the outlet, so to see the series hit a wall this early in its run should be worrying for fans of the show as well as the studio making it.

THR also cites Nielsen ratings as another sign of trouble. Despite boasting high-profile intellectual property, its high price tag, and a powerful marketing machine supporting it, the first season of The Rings of Power failed to break into the top 10 of Nielsen’s most watched original streaming series of 2022. The Rings of Power took 15th place on the list.

Based on these statistics, it seems the fervor (both positive and negative) that welcomed the series in its first few weeks died down considerably as the season progressed. The show led by first-time showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay certainly received a bit of criticism during its first season, with some pointing to its barebones plot and poor pacing as clear flaws in an otherwise visually stunning production. Personally, while I really enjoyed this return to Middle-earth, the first season did seem to contain a little too much setup for twists that were a little too predictable. Did The Rings of Power ultimately bore its audience into quitting the show before they reached the end?

Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has a different read on the situation. According to Salke, The Rings of Power has more than met the company’s expectations and is off to a very exciting start, with much more to come.

“This desire to paint the show as anything less than a success — it’s not reflective of any conversation I’m having internally,” Salke told THR, while promising a second season with “more dramatic story turns,” calling it “a huge opportunity for us. The first season required a lot of setting up.”

In other words, the vibes are apparently good at Amazon Prime Video when it comes to The Rings of Power and what’s coming up in its second season.

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Amazon TV chief Vernon Sanders said as much to Deadline in December while discussing what’s next for the series: “We are going to be faster. We are going to be able to put more money on screen, just in terms of the scale and scope of what we’re doing now that we know how to do it. And I also think the pace of our story is going to increase in part because the story is demanding that now that everyone’s been established, the stakes are established, that we’re going to watch some characters in some lands go to war.”

With these statements, Salke and Sanders seem to stress patience. The big epic battles, character moments, and 20 Rings of Power you’ve been waiting for are on their way in season 2. And indeed, the first season does end with a bit more…setup for some potentially huge moments when the show returns. The first three rings have been forged and Sauron’s finally arrived in Mordor. Plus, The Stranger‘s on his way to Rhun to learn more about his destiny, while there’s a very angry Balrog waking up in the depths of Moria. Nine episodes later, the story seems to be coming together. The question is whether the average viewer will bother to tune in…

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is currently filming its second season and is slated to return to Amazon Prime Video sometime in 2024.