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Viewers Flock to Streaming Documentaries, Current Event Shows

Aubrey Meister
“Free Solo” streaming on Disney+

A new study by Parrot Analytics shows streaming subscribers have developed an insatiable appetite for documentaries. No other genre comes close. There’s a heavy interest in news-related content, and it doesn’t seem to be diminishing. Streamers are enjoying both scripted and non-scripted news-based series and documentaries. From January 2019 to this month, demand for documentaries has grown by 142%.

While documentary production is increasing, it’s lagging that explosive demand. From January 2019 to March 2021, documentary production increased by 63%. On the bright side, the number of documentaries and series available should be climbing. Thanks to advanced production technology, content from current events can easily be used for documentaries and series.

Jana Winograde, president of entertainment at Showtime Networks Inc. explains the popularity of current event-based series and documentaries, saying, “While current events have always been fodder for entertainment programming, we’ve seen a rise in consumers’ appetite for content based on real-world events.”

Documentaries aren’t the only hot genre right now. Streaming numbers for reality, children, and animation genres are all three on the rise. From 2019 to 2020, documentaries saw a 120% increase, while reality TV rose by 67%. Children’s content increased by 40% and animation rose by 15%. Brian Fuhrer, senior vice president at Nielsen, may have an explanation for children’s shows and movies being on the rise. Fuhrer says, “Kids are watching those movies over and over and over again.”

While there are several genres that streaming platforms and producers should be focusing on primarily, the demand for more content, in general, is something to be considered. As some platforms see greater retention than others, they may have to fight a little harder to keep subscription numbers up as the pandemic slowly improves.

Documentaries are a tool that streaming platforms can use to potentially keep their subscribers around long-term. Alejandro Rojas, Parrot Analytics’ director of applied analytics says, “We have also found evidence that documentaries are increasingly becoming a useful retention tool (for streamers).”


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