Documentary Demand Trends

16 April, 2021

In the 2020 Global TV Demand Report one of the top level takeaways was the growth in demand for digital original documentary content. In the US in 2020, 9.0% of demand for digital original series was for a documentary series. This was up from a 4.1% share the year before. Here we do a deeper dive into the trends in the documentary genre.

Across all shows (not just digital originals) the share of demand expressed for documentary series in 2020 was 6.8%. Comparing this number to the 9.0% share for digital original documentaries shows that documentaries account for a larger share of audience attention in the digital original space. Below is an updated view of what genres audiences are giving their attention to so far this year (Q1 2021).


Documentary series have carved out a 7.4% share of American audiences’ attention in the first quarter of the year, up from their 6.8% share for 2020. This is a strong start to the year, but not a new trend. As can be seen in the chart below, demand for documentary series has shown strong growth since 2019. In particular it has grown at a faster rate since mid 2020. The growth in demand for documentary series has outstripped the growth in the number of titles in this genre.


The most in-demand documentary series for the quarter represent the incredible variety of content in the documentary genre. The sports documentary, The Last Dance, was the most in-demand documentary for the quarter and had 12.4 times the demand of the average series. Demand for this show has held up impressively well - it was the most in-demand new series premiere of 2020.


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