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Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Hulu: The Appetite for Documentary Viewing on the Home of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Do online video subscribers watch documentaries?

  • This week’s post pulls back the curtain, but just a little.
  • Research firm Comscore tracks Monthly Uniques for Hulu, the #3 U.S. online subscription service after Netflix and Amazon.

The Findings:

The data is by programming category:

And here is the detail:

Monthly Uniques, March 2018

News & Information1,73418%
Animation & Cartoons1,14212%
Reality & Game Shows8969%
Horror & Suspense3484%
Science Fiction3343%
Action & Adventure 2713%
Health & Wellness1812%


  • Comscore reported 12.4 million Hulu Uniques in March.
  • The program category was reported for 9.6 million of these.
  • The measure doesn’t include length of view, subscriber ratings and other very important metrics.


1. Hulu

2. The Vault

  • Netflix, Amazon Prime and other subscription platforms keep their proprietary viewing data locked inside a vault.
  • And as I wrote in MIPTV Takeaway #1, the privacy of SVOD ratings creates a challenge for producers:
    • They can’t use data to refine their pitches to the ever-expanding online platforms.
  • More industry insiders use social media data as a helpful proxy:
    • Read about Parrot Analytics in my recent post “The Demand for Documentaries Across Online & Social Media Platforms: Recent Highlights.”
    • And watch out for more about Parrot Analytics‘ analysis of cross-platform demand for unscripted programs.

3. The Implications of “One Percent”

  • If the Netflix and Amazon black boxes hide anything like the Hulu finding that only one percent of Uniques are for Documentaries, then the role of the category is principally to win awards and press.
  • Documentaries also project the feel-good quality that encourages subscription renewal and retention.
  • A “One Percent” finding suggests that SVOD services will continue to double down on projects about A-Lister topics and/or that involve award-winning “auteur” editorial talent like Werner Herzog.
  • “Auteurs” grab the attention of the relatively closed circle of influential reviewers of documentaries and judges of major awards.
  • Read more about The A-Lister Documentary Economy in my MIP Takeaways.

4. The Cost Factor

  • Relative cost works in favor of the documentary category on SVOD services.
  • The budget for an A-Lister documentary is much less than that of a typical Scripted program with B-Talent.
  • The documentaries tend to attract as many viewers as the B-Talent content.
  • They can win awards and earn favorable press.
  • And they contribute to subscriber satisfaction.


Original analysis and coverage from 

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