Unscripted content demand and streaming platform preparedness for a stoppage

18 May, 2023

As the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) continue their ongoing dispute into its third week, the scale of the strike is becoming unprecedented. This strike is the most significant work stoppage for the WGA since the impactful 2007-2008 disruption, which lasted for 100 days, and its ripples are reverberating throughout the entire industry. The strike primarily affects scripted content, and the lack of this content may make content providers rely more on unscript shows to fill this gap.

The world of streaming platforms, where content variety and quantity significantly drive viewership, faces both opportunities and challenges due to the strike. Although most streaming platforms do have a stockpile of scripted content to be released throughout these dry months, the longer the strike continues, the more likely it becomes that the delivery of new scripted content will slow (and eventually run out down the line). The lack of new scripted content could increase the consumption of unscripted shows as viewers search for alternatives to their usual binge-watching selections. However, the need for a diverse and abundant supply of unscripted content to substitute the scripted shows creates a significant logistical challenge.

Looking back at the last strike, there was an observable increase in viewership of unscripted content during the period of halted content production. This historical precedent prompts us to consider which streaming platforms are best prepared for an extended shutdown. An analysis of the platform's content catalogs and their reliance on scripted versus unscripted content offers some insight into their preparedness.


As anticipated, Discovery+ dominates in terms of demand and supply shares for unscripted TV content. The platform's specialization in documentaries and reality TV, which are among the most popular genres of unscripted TV, gives it a unique advantage. Following Discovery+, Peacock stands out with over 40% of its shows being unscripted. These shows contribute to over a third of the total catalog demand. Peacock benefits from a wide range of Bravo and NBC reality shows, including The Voice (US), which is the most in-demand unscripted show in the US this year.

Paramount+ and Hulu both see a significant demand share from unscripted content at 22.4%. Both platforms feature the highly popular RuPaul's Drag Race, the second most in-demand unscripted show this year. Beyond that, Paramount+ benefits from a number of CBS shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race, while Hulu hosts a considerable amount of licensed content, including Impractical Jokers.

Conversely, platforms like Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Netflix rely less on unscripted shows, indicating lower demand and supply shares of this type of content. The impending merger of HBO Max and Discovery+ will likely create a more balanced content mix, combining Discovery+'s unscripted content with HBO Max’s acclaimed dramas.

With the strike potentially extending, American audiences may increasingly lean towards reality TV, a genre that continues to dominate the ranking of the most in-demand unscripted titles.


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