PTC Analysis Reveals Age-Based Ratings on Streaming Services are Deceptive

Written by PTC | Published April 11, 2023

Content on Popular Streaming Series Rated TV-14 Comparable to TV-MA Programs

LOS ANGELES (April 11, 2023) – In a new analysis of Nielsen Media Research’s most streamed original series, the Parents Television and Media Council (PTC) found that adult content in the TV-14 and TV-MA-rated programs on streaming services were comparable.

“There doesn’t appear to be any clear-cut rules for how programs are rated on these streaming services. The content on the most popular TV-14-rated programs rivals the content found on TV-MA-rated programs. For example, Netflix appears to have unilaterally determined that the ‘S-word’ is acceptable in any quantity on TV-14-rated programming and, to a lesser extent, the ‘F-word.’ For context, the FCC previously declared the ‘F-word’ and ‘S-word’ ‘presumptively indecent’ on broadcast television,” said Melissa Henson, vice president of the Parents Television and Media Council.

Four of the top 10 most-streamed series according to Nielsen Media Research for the period ending February 5 centered on teenaged characters and were rated TV-14 (That ‘90s Show, Ginny & Georgia, Lockwood & Co., and Wednesday). Two of the top 10 (The Snow Girl and Vikings: Valhalla) were rated TV-MA. All of the programs in this analysis currently air on Netflix.

That ‘90s Show, Ginny & Georgia and Lockwood & Co. all contained more profanity per episode than either of the two TV-MA-rated series; while Ginny & Georgia, Wednesday, and That ‘90s Show contained more sex, nudity and immodesty per episode than TV-MA-rated The Snow Girl; and TV-14-rated Wednesday approached Vikings: Valhalla in frequency of violence.

Ms. Henson continued, “The fact that so many TV-14-rated programs are in the top 10 could be an indication that families are looking for programs to watch together. But Netflix doesn’t offer much outside of the ‘Kid’ zone that is appropriate for general audience viewing. We know anecdotally, for example, that many families watched Wednesday together; and That ‘90s Show probably brought together parents who watched That ‘70s Show and their teens. Parents and families may be drawn to TV-14-rated programs, believing that they are less likely to contain adult content, but this analysis shows that isn’t necessarily the case.”

“Ultimately, streaming services need to answer what the trigger is for a TV-MA content rating. Parents will not expect higher levels of profanity or sexual content in a TV-14-rated program – nor should they. Content ratings should be accurate to fulfill their original intent to help viewers make informed decisions about a program’s content. Anything less constitutes a complete failure,” Henson added.

In the analysis, the PTC found the following:

That ‘90s Show (rated TV-14):

  • 111 sexual references/innuendos across 10 episodes = 11/episode

Ginny & Georgia (rated TV-14):

  • Sh*t = 7.65 uses per episode
  • 18.2 profanities per episode
  • 12.4 sexual references/innuendo per episode

Lockwood & Co. (rated TV-14)

  • 3 f-words in 8 episodes = .38/episode
  • 34 s-words in 8 episodes = 4.25/episode
  • 121 incidents of violence = 15.13/episode including 5.38 incidents of graphic violence/episode

Wednesday (rated TV-14)

  • 3 f-words in 8 episodes = .38/episode
  • 207 incidents of violence = 25.9/episode including 14.5 incidents of graphic violence/episode

The Snow Girl (rated TV-MA)

  • 71 profanities across 6 episodes = 11.8/episode, but 26 of those (37%) were the F-word.
  • An average of 8.5 instances of sex/nudity/immodesty per episode
  • An average of 4.67 instances of violence/blood/gore per episode

Vikings Valhalla (rated TV-MA)

  • 5 f-words across 16 episodes (1 in 1.6, 4 in 2.1) = .31/episode
  • 2 s-words in 16 episodes = .13/episode
  • 556 incidents of violence = 34.75/episode including 16.6 incidents of graphic violence/episode

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