‘Tiger King’ Is a Hit. But Data Shows Bigger Cats in the Netflix Jungle

Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

It might seem like everyone is raving these days about the buzzy original unscripted series “Tiger King.” But in the absence of any audience disclosures from Netflix as to just how big a hit it is, there’s some data that puts its performance in perspective.

Demand measurement firm Parrot Analytics conducted an exclusive analysis for Variety Intelligence Platform (VIP) using its “demand expression” calculation, which revealed “Tiger King” is the most successful season 1 of a Netflix original unscripted series ever at attracting demand from U.S. consumers within 14 days of debuting. Demand for “Tiger King” in the U.S. during the 14 days following its March 20 debut (let’s call this the “14-day demand metric”) was 26.9 times greater than that of the average TV series during the same time period. 

Note the 14-day demand metric for “Tiger King” also more than doubled that of the No. 4 (“The Family”) through No. 10 ranked shows (“Rhythm & Flow”) in the unscripted 14-day demand ranking, speaking to what a phenomenon the “Joe Exotic”-focused doc has become since launching. 

Buzz doesn’t necessarily translate to demand. Perhaps Netflix’s biggest previous unscripted success, “Love is Blind,” actually doesn’t crack the top 10 on the 14-day demand metric. “Tiger King” is six times more in demand than “Blind” over the same period, even though “Blind” registered on multiple days as the top draw by Netflix’s own Top 10 indicator, which the streaming service launched in late February.

“Tiger King” wasn’t a hit from the start. For example, the 7-day demand metric for S2 of “Making A Murderer” (which debuted October 2018 and centers around the aftermath of the convictions of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey) was 27.7, well above the 7-day demand metric of “Tiger King” at 10.3. Meanwhile, the “The Keepers” (which debuted May 2017 and focuses on the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik) had a 7-day demand metric of 14.1 and also took off more quickly than “Tiger King.”

But as deafening the buzz might seem regarding “Tiger King,” it’s interesting to note that even the biggest unscripted series on Netflix don’t tend to generate anywhere near the demand levels of its scripted counterparts. 

Parrot’s data shows that “The Witcher” stands as Netflix’s most successful title ever (of season 1s of Netflix original scripted series) at attracting demand during the 7 and 14-day periods following launch. The title nabbed almost 144 times the amount of demand that the average U.S. TV series did in the week following its launch, while this figure was 170.5 during the two weeks following its launch.

There are a couple caveats to this data. First, it shouldn’t be forgotten that these numbers only reflect U.S. demand and not other territories where Netflix is active around the world. It’s also a measurement of Netflix titles within the two weeks following their debuts, meaning it’s possible that “Tiger King” is eventually able to in totality attract more demand from U.S. consumers in, say, the four weeks following its debut than a show like “Ozark” was able to in the four weeks following its debut. 

Moreover, “Tiger King” appeared to have had a hotter start by count of Nielsen, which recently released data indicating the docuseries had initially pulled in viewers similar in numbers to those of the most recent seasons of “Stranger Things.” Last Wednesday, Nielsen announced “Tiger King” had reached 34.3 million unique U.S. viewers within 10 days of premiering, a figure within range of the comparable Nielsen metrics for “Stranger Things” S2 (31.2 million) and S3 (36.3 million). 

Meanwhile, the 14-day demand metrics for S2 and S3 of “Stranger Things” were respectively 86 and 287, figures that greatly overshadowed the comparable metric for “Tiger King,” according to Parrot.

Some things that may partially help explain the difference: Nielsen’s figures are extrapolated estimates that measure viewing on U.S. connected TVs (mobile and PC viewing excluded), while Parrot determines its demand levels by analyzing online expressions of interest in a series from multiple sources. Parrot also picks up total market demand and does not estimate or extrapolate based on a sample to tabulate its proprietary demand metrics. 

Regardless, we think the data provided above makes it possible to reasonably compare how certain big name Netflix originals compare against each other in terms of consumer interest, which gives some idea of how genres of Netflix content stack up against each other. This has implications for many industry stakeholders, such as creators that are forming their content strategies and are wondering what content gets the hottest on Netflix.