Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

NETFLIX DOCUMENTARIES USA: The Top 20 Originals in 2019 from Parrot Analytics. Plus: ‘Stranger Things’ vs David Attenborough’s ‘Our Planet’

Netflix famously keeps its audience data a deep secret.

  • We lack even high-level measures of its documentary viewing, much less the detailed demographics from the likes of Nielsen and BARB that drive the broadcast and Cab/Sat sectors.
  • That’s a problem for the Unscripted / Documentary eco-system.
  • Producers, schedulers and their funders are shooting in the dark if they lack reliable data about the relative performance of comparable programs on Netflix and its current and future streaming competitors.

Measuring Audience Demand

  • Parrot Analytics provides a valuable workaround to Netflix’s ratings black hole.
  • Parrot measures online audience demand across all platforms.
  • Parrot is a cutting-edge research firm that sweeps up billions of “demand expressions” about content.
  • It ranks the intensity of involvement in a program by “weighting” each of these “expressions.”
  • For example, a Facebook “Like” of a program earns a low rating, and a “Download-to-Own” a very high one.

Series of Posts

  • Today’s post covers Netflix’s Top 20 Original Documentaries.
  • I then compare them with Scripted Netflix Original hits like Stranger Things.
  • Parrot Analytics has generously shared their proprietary data on the Top 20 Documentary and Scripted Originals on Netflix in the U.S., UK, France, Germany & Australia.

Top 20 Netflix Documentary Originals
United States
Demand Expressions / Capita
January 1 – July 7, 2019

RankTitle Daily Demand 
1Remastered: Who Shot The Sheriff          2.0352
2Making A Murderer          1.9018
3The Chef Show          1.8309
4Our Planet          1.1928
5Wild Wild Country          0.8603
6Knock Down The House          0.7027
7Last Chance U          0.6999
8Evil Genius: … America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist          0.6895
9Made In Mexico          0.6436
10Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes          0.5855
11Chef’s Table          0.5252
12Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened          0.4490
13Formula 1: Drive To Survive          0.3745
14The Toys That Made Us          0.3015
15Ugly Delicious          0.2797
16The Confession Tapes          0.2789
17Abstract: The Art Of Design          0.2605
18Girls Incarcerated          0.2418
19Dirty Money          0.2371
20Trigger Warning With Killer Mike          0.2368

Source: Parrot Analytics
* Average Demand Expressions® per 100 Capita over Date Range


  • Parrot’s Demand Expressions® is a very useful and widely subscribed tool for programmers to value the online impact of programs, content brands and genres.
  • For commercial channels, advertisers and programmers rely on Nielsen-type viewing data to establish the scale and quality (gender, age, wealth, etc.) of the audience watching particular programs.
  • Online engagement measures help attract sponsors and create other commercial insights, but they don’t sell fabric softener like the ‘dinosaur’ ratings services.

Series vs One-offs

  • At a glance,17 of the Top 20 U.S. programs are either limited series or multi-year series.
    • This finding validates the conventional wisdom about the branding and promotional efficiencies of series versus one-offs.
  • However, at #1 is Who Shot The Sheriff about Bob Marley — a one-hour special!
  • Knock Down The House at #6 features congressional superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • Fyre (#12) is also a feature documentary that rode a wave of publicity alongside a competing film from Hulu.
  • My new study Netflix: What You Need To Know Now! provides a database of Netflix Originals & key acquisitions, with valuable information about the streamer’s business model and eco-system. Read more here…


  • True Crime is the winning-est category (#1,2,8,10,12,16,18,19).
  • Food and Lifestyle are well-represented at #3,11,15 and perhaps #17.
  • David Attenborough (#4) carries the Wildlife genre all by himself in the U.S. Top 20.
    • The streamers are greenlighting multiple big budget, blue chip projects from production companies that spun out of the BBC’s Natural History unit in Bristol.
    • How can this cascade of such similar programs all perform well, particularly if Attenborough isn’t on board as the beloved presenter?
    • Netflix and the streamers value Blue Chip Wildlife not so much for the scale of the viewing audience but for how the genre delivers the customer satisfaction which drives subscription renewal.


Stranger Things 12. Attenborough 1

  • I have often wished that I could compare Nielsen ratings for a hit Netflix documentary series like Our Planet with a scripted monster hit like Stranger Things.
  • The following table presents Parrot Analytics’ Daily Demand measure for the Top 20 Scripted Netflix programs.
  • The “Scale Difference” column calculates the multiple in Demand for the Scripted vs Unscripted show at each rank from 1 – 20.
    • For example, Stranger Things registers around 7 times the Demand expressed for the #1 Bob Marley documentary.
    • And Lucifer accounts for 5X the Demand Expressions of Making A Murderer.
  • With a little extra math, we find that Stranger Things registers 12X versus Our Planet, although the long-term library value of an Attenborough series must far surpass most scripted series.
  • The average across the Top 20 is Scripted 6X vs Doc Originals.

Top 20 Netflix Scripted Originals
United States
Demand Expressions / Capita
January 1 – July 7, 2019

RankTitle Daily Demand Scale Difference
1Stranger Things      14.52157.1
2Lucifer        9.42405.0
3When They See Us        7.57934.1
4Black Mirror        7.26466.1
5Narcos        6.08077.1
613 Reasons Why        4.38376.2
7You        3.56875.1
8Designated Survivor        3.53075.1
9House Of Cards        3.28165.1
10Roma        3.27885.6
11Ozark        3.21016.1
12The Society        3.00156.7
13Love Death And Robots        2.71847.3
14The OA        2.66718.8
15Travelers        2.50969.0
16Lemony Snicket…        2.44808.8
17La Casa De Papel        2.39419.2
18The Haunting Of Hill House        2.29769.5
19Sense8        2.15389.1
20Altered Carbon        2.03968.6

Demand Expressions®

  • Demand Expressions® is the global TV measurement standard developed by Parrot Analytics that represents the total audience demand being expressed for a title within a market.
  • Audience demand reflects the desire, engagement and viewership, weighted by importance.
  • A stream/download is a higher expression of demand than a ‘like’/comment.

About Parrot Analytics

  • Parrot Analytics is the leading global content demand analytics company for the multi-platform TV business. With the world’s largest TV audience demand datasets, the company currently tracks more than 1.5B daily expressions of demand in over 100 languages from 200+ countries to reveal the content consumers engage with and watch the most across platforms.
  • Parrot Analytics is a trusted partner to some of the biggest media companies and content creators in the world, helping them optimize content workflows in real time. Partnering with companies across the entire content supply chain, from agencies to global direct-to-consumer platforms, Parrot Analytics helps drive better production, distribution, acquisition and marketing decisions, as well as increased subscriber growth and retention.
  • The company has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Singapore and Auckland. Connect with us on YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • For more information, see