Documentary Series Television Trends 2017

23 January, 2018

O.J.: Made in America, ESPN Films / Laylow Films

2017 saw the release of many great documentaries on a vast array of topics, from the diversity of nature, to food around the world, to historical events and issues and social problems happening today. However, which specific documentary subgenres performed best globally?

To answer this question, we will use Parrot Analytics demand data, and include a comparison with 2016. We will conclude with an investigation of which individual countries had the highest demand for the three most popular subgenres of last year.


Which subgenres performed best globally?

By averaging the demand per capita across all shows in a subgenre in every country in the world, we can directly compare the average global demand for eight key documentary subgenres.This gives some interesting results. Although there were some high-profile and high-demand nature releases in 2017, the nature subgenre was narrowly beaten in average demand by the biography subgenre. The Oscar success of the biography title O.J.: Made In America pointed to a resurgence in the genre last year and popular titles like Amazon’s Long Strange Trip and Discovery’s Harley And The Davidsons performed well in 2017.

Another result is that although Netflix in particular had some successes with their True Crime documentaries like The Keepers and Making A Murderer, this is not a particularly high-demand subgenre overall.


How does this compare against 2016?

To truly assess if a subgenre performed well in 2017, it’s necessary to go back and look at the year-on-year growth against the demand in 2016. Luckily, this is possible with demand data.The biggest movement is True Crime shows declining the most, despite the release of the high-profile Netflix titles in the subgenre mentioned earlier. Biography also had a slightly worse year in 2017 compared to 2016. Although the high average demand demonstrates that there were still excellent biography documentaries released in 2017, the subgenre did not quite reach the demand average set by the incredible 2016 releases.

Conversely, the world enjoyed new nature documentaries in 2017 that introduced audiences to a wide variety of weird and wonderful creatures. Interest in these new series propelled the average demand for the nature subgenre to a higher level than that for 2016.


Where were the most popular subgenres the most in-demand in 2017?

So far, this has been a look at global documentary trends. To conclude, we will now see which individual countries had the highest demand for the three most popular subgenres.The USA had the highest demand per capita for biography titles, followed closely by Norway and New Zealand, with these countries having around three times the global average demand per capita for the subgenre.

Although there is a slight bias towards Europe, the highest demand countries for biography titles are fairly well distributed geographically. This is not a surprising find: A good biographical documentary will be a tale set in a particular culture that can nonetheless fascinate audiences anywhere.Ireland had the highest demand per capita for nature titles, followed by New Zealand and the USA.

Nature documentaries are often set in remote locations with few human residents, allowing everyone to experience rare and wondrous natural sights. This is the most different to daily life in the world’s highest developed countries. This difference may explain nature subgenre having the highest popularity in these developed countries.Finally, the science subgenre is most in demand in Iran, the USA and Canada. Japan and Germany also have high demand for this subgenre, both countries are often associated with technology and technological progress.

Interestingly, no countries from South America or Africa appear in all three of the lists. However, every country in both Oceania and North America do appear. Being continents of only two countries likely helps with this achievement, but it is clear from this that New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians and Americans greatly enjoy documentaries of many types.

Note: You may also wish to take a look at our 2017 global SVOD television demand report: 65+ pages of valuable data and insights for 10 markets globally.

Get a glimpse into the future of global audience demand measurement for TV shows, movies and talent and learn from consolidated insights and strategic thinking focused on the entertainment industry.

Exclusive global, regional and market-specific content and talent analyses
Rank 15,000+ talent in 50+ markets across all platforms
Rank 20k+ TV shows and 12k+ movies in 50+ markets across all platforms

The Global Television Demand Report

  • Truly understand the global SVOD originals landscape
  • Comprehensive platform market share benchmarks
  • Released each quarter covering 10 global markets
  • Get exclusive access to our comprehensive reports
  • Available for FREE with a DEMAND360LITE subscription