Why Young Adult programming is key to the future of streaming platforms in the US

1 March, 2023

Young adult (YA) shows are an essential part of the entertainment industry, and their popularity and engagement are critical to the success of streaming platforms. Investing in and developing engaging, relatable, and entertaining young adult shows is a key strategy for platforms looking to attract and retain young audiences. Considering that a large part of this audience still lives with their family and watches a streaming platform on their parent’s account, engaging with young adults may bring also the rest of the family to the platform. 

In addition to their popularity, young adult shows also have a loyal fan base that drives engagement and helps to spread the word about the platform. Social media plays a significant role in this aspect, as fans often take to Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to share their favorite moments and engage with other viewers, creating a buzz around the show and the platform.

Using Parrot Analytics demographic data, which allows us to measure how much of a show’s audience comes from each generational group, we can approach this topic with a broader definition of YA shows. For this analysis we defined YA as shows that have an overwhelmingly large share of their audience younger than 23 years old and excluded some genres that are not traditionally seen as YA content, such as children and anime.  Doing this, we can see what has been drawing this demographic group’s attention.

For the full year of 2022, Euphoria was the most popular YA show, with 29.25 times more demand than the average show in the US market, followed closely by another HBO show, Our Flag Means Death and by legacy title Friends. The teen drama Riverdale was the most in-demand YA show on Netflix in 2022. Another Netflix production in this list is Squid Game, a show that is not traditionally defined as YA content due to its themes of survival, competition, and social commentary but has a largely Gen Z audience.


Disney+, besides having only 2 shows in the top 10 YA shows ranking, relies more on these type of shows than the other main SVOD platforms. More than 10.0% of Disney Plus’s catalog demand in the last quarter of 2022 came from these shows, which make up 13.1% of its catalog. 

From both charts, we can see that HBO Max is the platform that has been most successful and efficient when dealing with young adult shows. Four out of the top 10 YA shows are available on HBO Max, including the top three YA shows.  Additionally, HBO Max is, alongside Hulu the only of the main SVOD platforms where YA have a higher demand than a supply share. This means that HBO Max is capable of drawing more attention from younger audiences with fewer shows. By comparison, Netflix has 12.2% of its catalog in the YA category, but these shows account for only 7.9% of its catalog demand.


If we look at the broader landscape, not only the main SVOD platforms, we can see that there is still whitespace opportunity for this content in the US. The demand for YA shows has been growing at a larger rate than the supply. Between 2020 and the end of 2022, the demand for these shows grew 47.0%, while the supply grew only 29%. If we include animes, which are not traditionally seen as YA shows, but heavily over-index with younger audiences, the demand would have grown  74.0% in that same period.


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