Foreign Content Demand in the US: Has Covid shifted American viewing behaviors?

22 February, 2021

Looking back on 2020 there have been many unexpected changes to viewing behavior. One question that is frequently asked is ‘Have audiences started viewing more foreign content?’

The answer is yes, but the why of it is more complicated than a simple COVID-19 focused answer. Below is the share of demand US audiences have expressed for non-US origin shows.


We can see from the above trend chart that US demand for foreign content has increased over the past 3 years. This growth however has been uneven. From Q1 2018 – Q1 2019 there was little change in Americans’ share of demand for non-US content. During this time the demand share hovered between 24-25%. It was in the second quarter of 2019 where US demand for foreign content began to grow in earnest, increasing each quarter for the next year.

In 2020, US demand for foreign content has continued to reach new highs. While the demand share of foreign content in each quarter of 2020 has been higher than any quarter in the previous two years, it has not grown as steadily as it did throughout 2019.

US audiences have demanded a greater share of foreign content than ever before in 2020. As with many changes we have seen this year, COVID merely strengthened a trend that was already in place. 2019 was actually the year where this shift in viewing behavior took off.

Below we break down what countries of origin were driving this change over time.


Content from the UK has consistently made up the largest share of demand for foreign origin content in the US. It’s share of demand has stayed in a narrow range (8% ±0.5% ) since 2018 meaning that the growth in demand for foreign content has not come from British shows.

The US demand share for Japanese origin content reached a low point in 2019 at 4.5%. In 2020 however this has strongly rebounded. It peaked at a 6% demand share in Q3 2020. US demand for Japanese series is primarily driven by demand for anime.

Content originating from India saw the largest growth in US demand over this time. It went from being an almost negligible demand share in Q1 2018 to the 5th largest country at the end of 2020. Naagin was the top Indian show in the US for 2020 with 16.7x the average demand. US demand for Turkish content saw growth in 2020. This was mainly driven by the success of a particular show, Resurrection: Ertugrul, which has gotten global attention. Additionally, US demand for shows from other countries has grown from 2018 indicating that US audiences are discovering content from previously unfamiliar markets.

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