Citadel wasn't the massive Prime Video hit that Amazon made it out to be

Mason Kane stares directly into the camera in Citadel episode 6
Citadel couldn't even break into Nielsen's Top 10 list of most popular streaming projects. (Image credit: Jonathan Prime/Amazon Studios)

Despite Amazon's bold claims about its extraordinary popularity, its expensive Citadel TV series wasn't as successful as we all thought.

At first glance, the Prime Video spy thriller, whose first season began airing on April 28 and ended on May 26, was thought to be a major hit for Amazon's streaming service. On the day of the TV show's season one finale (May 26), we reported that Citadel had the green-light for a second season, with the series owing its renewal to its immense popularity among viewers worldwide. That's according to Amazon anyway, who said Citadel was the second most-watched Prime Video Original series ever globally, and the fourth most-streamed Original TV show in the US alone.

Unfortunately, third-party data suggests Citadel wasn't the thrillingly successful TV show it was made out to be. Nielsen, a leading US-based analytics and market measurement firm, revealed that Citadel's first season didn't even crack its Top 10 streaming list – a monthly index of the most popular movies and TV shows – in May 2023. As the tweet below reveals (dated June 2), Citadel couldn't usurp the likes of kids TV show Bluey (on Disney Plus) or crime-based drama NCIS (on Netflix and Paramount Plus) for a spot on the list.

There are caveats to Nielsen's Top 10 streaming list, with the most notable one being that Nielsen only compiles data from US audiences. If it collated viewing figures from across the globe, it's possible that Citadel would have snuck into the list, especially with the amount of people who seemingly tuned in to watch it in the UK, Australia and other non-US nations.

Even so, given Amazon's claim that Citadel is the fourth most-streamed Prime Video Original TV show of all-time in the US, you might have expected it to have break into Nielsen's Top 10 monthly list. Based on Nielsen's May 2023 round-up, which saw Better Call Saul rack up 673 million viewing minutes, Citadel clearly didn't break the 670 million minute mark, otherwise it would have done enough to take bottom spot.

Without official data from Amazon, we'll never know how many people actually watched Citadel or how many millions of minutes were streamed in the US. Considering its inability to crack the Nielsen Top 10, however, we suspect that very few individuals actually watched the show from start to finish. Not many will have either, if they read our Citadel review, in which we said the "disparity within its makeup, most notably its bewilderingly volatile story beats, and overall unoriginality makes for a bland spy series".

Mason and Nadia prepare to fight in Citadel on Prime Video

Citadel is reportedly the most expensive Prime Video Original TV show ever. (Image credit: Prime Video)

In light of Nielsen's revelatory information, Amazon appears to have gone on the defensive, too. Speaking during a panel at the Banff World Media Festival in Alberta, Canada (as reported by Variety), Amazon's head of drama series Odetta Watkins said: "In the US, we are very jaded and watch everything with a discerning eye, like, 'Hmm, that [season] wasn’t as good as the last one.' I just think [‘Citadel’] needs time to grow."

Time to grow, it will almost certainly have. As well as the aforementioned Citadel season two, the series' first spin-off – titled Citadel: Diana – is penciled to arrive sometime in 2024. It's set in Italy and and will follow a new batch of characters, including the titular Citadel agent, in Amazon's fledgling Spy-Verse. More spin-offs, which are yet to be revealed, are likely to flesh out the franchise too.

Still, you have to wonder whether Amazon should be funnelling its billions-strong cash reserves into other Prime Video Originals. That goes for new TV shows and returning fan favorites, which you can read more about in our best Prime Video shows guide.

When one of the world's best streaming services has canceled other popular and/or critically-acclaimed shows including The Wilds, Paper Girls and Three Pines, its desire to continue creating new content for its Citadel-centric universe seems like a bizarre move. It's cost Amazon an eye-watering fortune so far – it's been suggested that, at over $300 million, Citadel is the most expensive TV show of all-time – so it can't be in the corporation's best interests to keep investing in a series that's struggled to draw in viewers. 

Even worse, if your big-budget spy thriller show can't see off Bluey – an anthropomorphic, animated blue dog who educates kids for a living – in the race for a place on Nielsen's Top 10 streaming list, maybe it's not worth renewing at all.

For more Prime Video-based coverage, read our best Prime Video movies, The Rings of Power season 2, Invincible season 2, and The Wheel of Time season 2 guides.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.