Audiences turning to The Clone Wars as a way to better understand what’s happening in The Mandalorian or refresh their memories makes sense, but the spike in Clone Wars viewership has an even bigger winner — Disney Plus.
Spoilers below for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 5
Like anything in the Star Wars universe, The Mandalorian is rooted in deeper Star Wars lore. It was this week’s episode, however, and the appearance of Ahsoka Tano that finally convinced me to start Clone Wars. And based on data provided to The Verge by Parrot Analytics, I’m not the only person who’s looking to marathon Dave Filoni’s animated series to keep up with The Mandalorian.
The Mandolorian has caused jumps in Clone Wars views before. When The Mandalorian first came out in November 2019, Clone Wars saw its first massive spike. Interest remained high until the second spike in spring 2020 when the seventh season of Clone Wars was released on Disney Plus. It dropped after that, but the show saw a third third spike accompanying The Mandalorian’s second season premiere in October. It’s been trending high ever since, according to the analytics firm.
When looking at data from January 1st, 2017 to present day, the team’s researchers found that by the end of 2019, Clone Wars saw a “level of demand from US audiences that is many factors greater than anything it has experienced before,” according to Samuel Stadler, vice president of marketing at Parrot Analytics.
To put that into additional context, Clone Wars now — a year after The Mandalorian debuted — is over four times as popular as it was before the live-action series came around, according to Parrot (which measures demand by how much time people are spending watching a show through social media, fan ratings, and piracy to calculate overall interest). And while data for Star Wars Rebels wasn’t provided, Google Trends shows a similar spike in interest for the show over the last week, which likely has to do with the big Admiral Thrawn reveal at the end of “The Jedi.”
This makes sense. People sign up for or sign into Disney Plus to watch the wonderful adventures of Grogu (forever Baby Yoda in my mind), and then spend the next several weeks making their way through Clone Wars. For Disney, it’s the best possible outcome. An October report from research firm MoffettNathanson found that daily usage on Disney Plus has declined over the last six months. There have been some spikes in viewership; Hamilton brought in a number of subscribers and convinced people who wouldn’t sign up for Disney Plus to do just that, but getting people to use the platform every single day was getting tougher.
Without being able to flood the streamer with TV shows and film as often as competitors like Netflix, Disney Plus has to rely on opportunities to grow. The uptick in Clone Wars viewership and interest helps to solve part of that problem. The Mandalorian pushes more people every single week to check out Clone Wars — a show with seven seasons — which in turn might encourage fans to revisit one or two of the main Skywalker saga movies.
The interconnected universe is something that Star Wars fans deep into the universe’s lore want more of, and it provides Disney with the perfect opportunity to keep people on the platform when they’re done with an episode of The Mandalorian. With a number of live-action and animated series ordered for Disney Plus, that universe becomes a bigger web that Disney can keep spinning as fans, old and new, remain invested in the bigger Star Wars story.
It’s also how Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige plans to interweave the Marvel Cinematic Universe films with the new shows on Disney Plus. WandaVision, for example, will play into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and there are other reports that characters from other films like Black Widow could end up in the Hawkeye series.
Clearly, Clone Wars and Rebels creator Dave Filoni (an executive producer on The Mandalorian) is writing The Mandalorian into his more expansive Star Wars universe. It’s a good thing for fans of the live-action series — the show has never been better and, as a new fan of Clone Wars, I love catching up with a show I’ve put off for so long. But the newfound and renewed interest is also a major win for Disney in its effort to find a way to steal people’s attention away from other streamers like Netflix and, more importantly, keep it.