When planning for video on demand (VOD) rentals, there are many variables at play that can affect a film’s VOD rental revenue potential. At Cadent, the Entertainment team tracks 20+ planning variables and emphasizes understanding how these variables work together to maximize returns. Recently, we took a look at one of these variables, film sentiment, to see how it impacted VOD rental performance.

For our analysis on film sentiment, we used both audience and critic score averages from Rotten Tomatoes while also recording if films were considered “Certified Fresh” by critics. Using these metrics, we set out to uncover any possible relationships these scores had with VOD rental revenue. 

First, let’s break down the different sentiment scores. Both audience and critic scores are an average out of 100. The audience score accounts for ratings from a typical viewer, while the critic score uses reviews from professional film critics. 

These scores aren’t always in line with one another. Look at a film like “The Greatest Showman,” which had a strong audience score of 86%, but a critic score of 56%. 

Many films created for critical acclaim don’t hit with audiences. “Hail, Caesar!” from the Coen brothers was critically loved — it sits at 86% with critics and is considered “Certified Fresh” — but it missed with audiences, who gave it a 44% score.

Ultimately, we found that an individual sentiment, like critical acclaim or audience reception, has little to no correlation with most VOD rental performance. However, films with a strong combination of the two saw sizable returns.

Movies with a built-in fan base can go either way. After all, these viewers are perhaps the most critical audience – they have high expectations, and their tolerance for missteps might be low. 

For example, 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” was built off of the huge Harry Potter fan base. The movie’s audience score topped 60%, while the critics were a bit less forgiving (at 38%). On the other hand, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was torn apart by fans of the franchise. It’s 44% audience score is the lowest of any live-action “Star Wars” film. Critics, however, gave the movie a 91% rating and dubbed the title “Certified Fresh.”

Despite the norms we discovered, our analysis found that a high critic or audience score did make an impact on one genre: horror films. Films that are R-rated, which include Oscar-winner “Get Out,” track an 85% correlation for critic score and VOD rental revenue while PG-13 rated films track a 68% correlation for audience score and VOD rental revenue. 

Things change when you start to look at Rotten Tomatoes’ other scoring mechanism, “Certified Fresh.” A film is “Certified Fresh” when it carries a critic score of 75% or higher consistently.

The current record-holding “Certified Fresh” film is “Lady Bird” from 2017. The film had a 100% Fresh rating for a chunk of its theatrical run (now it’s at 99%), and it overtook “Toy Story 2” as the film with the highest number of Fresh reviews (164).

In 2018, 39 of the top 100 films on-demand were “Certified Fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes. These films saw a 30% lift in the average number of transactions compared to the remaining 61 titles that were not “Certified Fresh.”

While “Certified Fresh” doesn’t take audience scores into account, we did: When a “Certified Fresh” film has an audience score higher than its already strong critic score, we saw a 97% lift in transactions. So, the ideal combination for the most successful VOD performance is a “Certified Fresh” movie that is also loved by audiences.

This idea proves true at the genre level, too. There was a 76% correlation between high audience scores and VOD rental revenue for Drama films with award show buzz (usually driven by critical acclaim). Overall, we found that “Certified Fresh” approval led to increased returns for action, family, horror and drama films. 

Cadent’s data and experience are a proven industry resource, and our planning database can optimize VOD campaigns and increase VOD rental revenue. Get in touch for more information. 

Julia Ferrigno

Posted by Julia Ferrigno

Senior Media Analyst, Cadent entertainment