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Have Netflix Viewers Moved on from True Crime Docuseries?

Jeff Kotuby

Are Netflix viewers finally moving on from the true-crime docuseries genre that carried the platform through the pandemic?

Variety examined the releases of Netflix's 2021 true-crime docuseries and found that the company was seeing “diminishing returns” on true-crime programming as the year progressed. Using Netflix’s “Top 10” as an indicator, Variety looked at all 2021 true-crime series and organized them in a chart — and check out all the blank spaces as the year progresses:

Title Release Date 1 (Day Since Release) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer 1/13/2021 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 7 7 7 7 9
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel 2/10/2021 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 4 4 4 5 6 7 8 8 9 9 10
Murder Among the Mormons 3/3/2021 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 5 8 10 10 10
Under Suspicion: Uncovering the Wesphael Case 3/17/2021
This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist 4/7/2021 5 2 2 1 1 1 1 4 8 8 8 8 10
The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness 5/5/2021 3 1 2 2 2 2 3 4 6 10 10 10
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork 6/30/2021 6 4 6 6 6 7 8 10
Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime 7/8/2021 8
Heist 7/14/2021 6 4 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 7 7 8 10
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami 8/4/2021 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 6 7 7 7 7 7 7 10
John of God: The Crimes of a Spiritual Healer 8/25/2021
Crime Stories: India Detectives 9/22/2021
Bad Sport 10/6/2021 10 10 9
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths 10/8/2021
The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea 10/22/2021
The Motive 10/28/2021
Catching Killers 11/4/2021 6 6 5 5 4 5 6 8 9
Where Is Marta? 11/5/2021
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness* 11/17/2021 1 1 1 1 2 2 3 5 6 7 8 9
Reasonable Doubt: A Tale of Two Kidnappings 11/23/2021
Dig Deeper: The Disappearance of Birgit Meier 11/26/2021

There are a few later successes, Billy Corben’s Cocaine Cowboys (the only true-crime series released after February to remain on Netflix’s Top 10 for 14 consecutive days) and Tiger King season two are among them, but it doesn’t look like true crime is captivating Netflix viewers in the same way as year’s past. Granted, the 2020 and 2019 series didn’t have to compete with Squid Game and Seinfeld, but did have to contend with The Office.

  • Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami

    4 août 2021

    La saga criminelle de deux amis qui ont abandonné le lycée et ont été les barons de la drogue les plus puissants de Miami pendant des décennies. Une histoire vraie.

  • Au Royaume des fauves

    20 mars 2020

    Un propriétaire de zoo qui pète les plombs et des protagonistes trippants peuplent cette histoire vraie dans l’univers interlope de l’élevage des fauves.

So what gives? It’s likely just what you think — a mix of true-crime fatigue and more shows and movies of different genres being produced.

True crime’s stranglehold on Netflix’s platform stemmed from pandemic shutdowns that forced everyone into their homes — including film production crews and talent. Naturally, it would make sense for documentaries about events that already occurred to still be in production during a pandemic. Directors don’t need talent in the same space — they can gather video remotely via webcam, a practice that has been utilized by many documentarians long before the pandemic — and don’t need to shoot anything — in many cases, there’s already video of incidents. Granted, many of Netflix’s top pandemic hits, including Tiger King, were filmed prior to March 2020, but it still makes sense that the remainder of the year would be filled with these easy-to-shoot (at least compared to other visual media) docuseries. Plus, multi-part docuseries make for perfect Netflix binge viewing.

But just as one would get tired of eating the same thing for dinner every night, viewers tired of watching the same sort of content every night. Sometimes, people want to laugh. They want to explore outer space. They want something different than a true crime docuseries — and that’s what we’re seeing now. As pandemic restrictions lift and life returns to “normalcy,” so too does the film industry. Now, we’re seeing series and movies released, pushing docuseries out of the limelight and back into the obscure corner of Netflix they’ve long populated.

Don’t worry, true-crime — we’ll always have March 2020 to look back on with a smile.

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