Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Netflix Dominates the Streamers: Comparing 2023’s Most Viewed Unscripted Shows

Netflix rolls on, leaving its competitors far behind!

Netflix just announced the second largest quarterly uptick in subscribers (13.1 million) in the company’s history, second only to Q1 2020 (15.8 million), which benefitted from the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Cutbacks in spending on programs and marketing by Netflix’s streaming rivals is a key factor driving its momentum.

Netflix’s dominance is captured in my survey of the audience for US streamers in Full Year ’23 in which I focus on the Top 2 Documentary and Reality programs for eight platforms.

The chart tells the story:

Legend

  • The blue bar represents the US audience in thousands for the highest-rated unscripted program for each streamer in  2023.
  • And the orange bar: the audience for their 2nd most viewed program in FY 2023.

The Top Two’s

And here are the Top 2 programs for each platform:

Top 2 Documentary / Reality Programs by Platform
(Total US Viewers, P2+, ‘000, Full Year 2023)

#1MURDAUGH MURDERSNETFLIXDocumentary27,443
#2MH370: THE PLANE THAT DISAPPEAREDNETFLIXDocumentary15,564
#1SHINY HAPPY PEOPLEAMAZONDocumentary9,146
#2DR. SEUSS BAKING CHALLENGEAMAZONReality2,296
#1BETRAYAL: PERFECT HUSBANDHULUDocumentary4,235
#2THE KARDASHIANSHULUReality4,189
#1GOOD CHEMISTRYDISNEY+Documentary2,149
#2STAR WARS BIOMESDISNEY+Documentary1,988
#1THE RELUCTANT TRAVELERAPPLE TVReality1,428
#2PREHISTORIC PLANETAPPLE TVDocumentary1,061
#1THE GREAT POTTERY THROW DOWNMAXReality1,582
#2SMARTLESS ON THE ROADMAXReality1,541
#1THE FAMILY STALLONEPARAMOUNT+Reality1,449
#2RUPAUL’S DRAG RACEPARAMOUNT+Reality1,296
#1COCAINE BEAR: TRUE STORYPEACOCKDocumentary2,979
#2DATELINE: THE LAST DAYPEACOCKDocumentary2,145

Sources: Various

Scale

  • Even the #1 programs for several streamers are small fraction of Netflix’s audience.
  • Netflix’s top documentary is 3x Amazon’s #1, 7x Hulu’s, 13x Disney+, around 20x Apple TV’s and MAX’s, and so on.

Takeaways

  • It is now clear that the combined studio / legacy channel operators like WarnerBros/Discovery, Disney, Comcast/NBC/Universal and Paramount lack the reach to catch up with Netflix.
  • They are incurring heavy losses while seeing incremental gains in streaming subscribers and revenues.
  • Meanwhile their legacy networks are losing both subscribers and ad revenues to cord-cutting.
  • A theoretical solution is to merge their content and brands into a “Super non-Netflix” streamer. This is unlikely due to practical, regulatory, and “chief executive massive ego” factors that I may explore in a future post.
  • Meanwhile, Sony is the major studio that decided to sit out Hollywood’s stampede into streaming. They are doing fine selling programs to all comers.

True Crime

Originals vs Legacy

  • MURDAUGH is a Netflix original, but many of the other streamers’ Top 2 shows evolved from legacy and even broadcast channel franchises. Examples are KARDASHIANS and DATELINE.
  • It is being widely reported that Netflix is ramping up acquisitions and cutting back its spend on fresh originals based on its viewing-per-program-spend analysis.

Ten U.S. Channels: What Are They Buying?

“Linear is down but still matters!” is the theme of my Pact webinars with veteran programmer and analyst Dan Salerno on the U.S. channels’ programming strategies.

Watch here:

  1. Discovery Channel and Animal Planet
  2. National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild
  3. A&E and History Channel
  4. TLC
  5. HGTV & Food Network
  6. Reelz
  7. ID: Investigation Discovery
  8. NatGeo and Disney+
  9. 2023 Year-end Snapshot
  10. Expert Takeaways from WCSFP

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