Decoding TV demand: which genres rely on mega hits and which spread the love?

6 September, 2023

Image: The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu

The chart below displays the percentage of shows accounting for 50% of the total demand for each genre in the US, according to Parrot Analytics. This metric gauges how demand is spread across various titles. The higher the percentage, the more evenly distributed demand is among a greater number of titles. Essentially, this chart illuminates which genres are top heavy, relying on a select few mega hits to carry the load, and which genres are more likely to produce a reliably in-demand title. 

While dramas such as Game of Thrones (HBO), Stranger Things (Netflix), The Walking Dead (AMC), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) and The Mandalorian (Disney+) have emerged over the last 13 years as anchor series driving subscription growth for their respective networks and streamers, they all do battle in a highly crowded and competitive field. Throw in the immense costs prestige dramas and genre series (sci-fi, fantasy, apocalyptic, etc.) tend to require and the degree of difficulty to achieve a true breakout hit becomes even more obvious. Drama may be a common genre for flagship series, but only a select few titles reach such pinnacles. In other words, it’s a bit of an uphill battle. 

Documentary, on the other hand, leads these genres in terms of how evenly demand is dispersed among its volume of titles. Despite the less splashy nature of the genre, perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise. The global share of documentary content among unscripted programming has risen from 32% in 2018 to 54% in 2022, per Parrot Analytics. And if we zoom out to look at all unscripted content — which would also include factual, variety, and reality from the list of genres in the chart — that broader genre accounted for a whopping 27% of all new productions last year. 

As every major entertainment company carefully eyes its balance sheet, efficient resource allocation and library optimization becomes increasingly integral to sustainable success. By better understanding the distribution of demand within a specific genre and how likely it is to rise through the ranks, content providers can make smarter programming and investment decisions. 


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