Star Wars Addresses Andor’s Lower Viewership

Are enough people actually watching Andor to declare it another Star Wars success?

Diego Luna in Star Wars Andor
Photo: Lucasfilm

New Star Wars releases, whether on the big screen or on TV, have long commanded the attention of a huge audience who want to know what’s next for the galaxy far, far away. But there are hints that the audience may be dwindling ever so slightly, at least when it comes to the latest series currently airing on Disney+. While ratings metrics are not an exact science in the age of streaming, especially when streamers themselves decline to share official viewership numbers, there are a few telling statistics that show Andor hasn’t quite found as big an audience as its predecessors.

Unlike The Mandalorian and other chart-topping Disney+ offerings, Andor has largely trailed behind its streaming competitors, according to Nielsen’s streaming ratings, although that metric only tracks TV viewing and not folks who watch streaming series on laptops and other mobile devices. Still, Nielsen shows how Andor struggled to rise up the list of top streaming shows in the US in October. And as pointed out by IndieWire, audience demand for Andor may also be down from other Star Wars shows. Parrot Analytics, which uses a proprietary software to track online chatter on social media and elsewhere about current movies and TV shows, claims there isn’t as much audience demand in the US for Andor as some of its contemporaries. In fact, demand for Andor is on par with the current offseason discussion around The Mandalorian, a show that hasn’t been on for almost two years (although its possible the upcoming third season helped boost those numbers).

Now, Andor‘s viewership numbers would certainly not be anything to cry about for most series. It has remained in the top 10 most watched original streaming shows in the Nielsen ratings throughout its run, but when you’re dealing with a juggernaut like Star Wars, it’s always go big or go home. The fact that Andor is not leading the pack is a disappointment for Disney.

That might help explain why Disney has decided to give Andor a wider release going into Thanksgiving weekend in the US. The studio announced on Monday that the first two episodes of Andor will now also air across its cable networks and its other big streaming service. Here’s the schedule of when non-Disney+ subscribers will be able to get a taste of what Andor has to offer:

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ABC:  Wednesday November 23,  9-10:30 pm ET/PT

FX:  Thursday, November 24, 9-10:30 pm ET/PT

Freeform:  Friday, November 25, 9-10:30 pm ET/PT

Hulu:  Available from November 23 through December 7

While not an official acknowledgment that Andor is struggling to find the kind of Star Wars viewership the studio is used to, it certainly would be reasonable to assume the move was made to entice more people outside of Disney+ to subscribe to the service and watch the whole series. Showrunner Tony Gilroy’s own comments on the response to Andor seem telling about where the show stands in terms of viewership numbers.

“I was surprised,” Gilroy told Variety when asked to share his thoughts on Andor‘s performance. “I thought the show would go the other way, that we would have this gigantic, instantaneous audience that would just be everywhere, but that it would take forever for non-Star Wars people or critics or my cohort of friends to get involved in the show. The opposite happened. We ended up with all this critical praise, all this deep appreciation and understanding from really surprising number of sources, and we’re chasing the audience.”

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It’s true that a live-action Star Wars property not topping the charts is surprising, but it’s also easy to see why Andor has struggled. For one thing, it’s a serious, slow-burn spy drama that has garnered a reputation for bucking traditional Star Wars conventions rather than embracing them, ditching the fast-paced pew-pew sci-fi action usually associated with the franchise for a much more adult storytelling style. The more grown-up tone of the series, while a brilliant choice for this particular story of revolution and a much-needed breath of fresh air for the space fantasy saga as a whole, isn’t exactly kid-friendly, and may have also turned off general audiences who expect a specific kind of feel from Star Wars. And it doesn’t help that the series isn’t centered around an instantly recognizable character from the films, making Andor feel like an optional entry to more casual fans when compared to Obi-Wan Kenobi or even The Book of Boba Fett. (You can make the case The Mandalorian should have faced the same problem in 2019, but that series also had the novelty of being the first of its kind, and centered protagonists that look just like two of the most famous characters from the movies.)

It’ll be interesting to see whether putting Andor on additional networks and services help it gain more of a following. Hulu, for example, has been the venue for Disney’s more adult properties and ventures, and perhaps there’s a case to be made a show like Andor should have been released there as well as Disney+ from the start. One thing Gilroy is particularly open about is the fact that the streaming business is still very much in an era of trial and error when it comes to each new release.

“Everybody is trying to pretend that this is business as usual…And everybody is faking it,” Gilroy told Variety. “This is an entirely new business. Everybody’s trying to figure it out. You have business affairs trying to pretend with streaming that they understand it and how artists should get paid. We’re going to have a whole bunch of labor issues that are going to come up because of that…No one’s ever launched these aircraft carriers before, these gigantic shows. I mean, our show has a budget. We’re tight. But there are shows out there without budgets, really. I mean, there’s some things going on out there that are just like, holy crap!”

In case you’ve missed it, Star Wars: Andor is streaming now on Disney+. Season 2 begins filming later this month.