Data: Netflix Saw Diminishing Returns From True-Crime Docuseries in 2021

Data: Netflix Saw Diminishing Returns From
Yinchen Niu/Variety Intelligence Platform

Netflix has dropped new original true-crime docuseries in every month of 2021 prior to December, but these series have generally had less successful debuts in the U.S. as the year has progressed. 

Netflix’s first two original true-crime docuseries of 2021, “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer” (January debut) and “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” (February debut), both made it into Netflix’s own top 10 U.S. TV series ranking for 20 consecutive days following their debuts, according to data provided to Variety Intelligence Platform by FlixPatrol.

That top 10 ranking discloses the most popular series in the U.S. on Netflix everyday. It’s separate from Netflix’s recently unveiled rankings that are published on top10.Netflix.com every Tuesday and disclose the most-watched TV series and films by hours streamed globally during the previous Monday-Sunday. 

Since “Crime Scene,” the majority of Netflix’s 2021-premiering original true-crime docuseries have failed to crack the top 10 U.S. TV series ranking for more than at least 14 consecutive days following debut.  

Since February, “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami” is the only 2021-premiering Netflix original true-crime docuseries to have made it into the streamer's top 10 U.S. TV series ranking for 14 consecutive days following debut.   

This helps explain why “Cocaine Cowboys” has the highest FlixPatrol score after “Night Stalker” and “Crime Scene.” The FlixPatrol score, which gauges audience appeal, is calculated based on the position and duration of a title within Netflix’s U.S. top 10 TV series ranking.  

A reminder of what a viral Netflix original true-crime docuseries is capable of is the initial run of “Tiger King” in 2020. “Tiger King” ranked among Netflix's top 10 U.S. TV series ranking for 50 consecutive days following its March 2020 S1 debut.    

Of course, the return of “Tiger King” (S2 of which dropped Nov. 17) has been a recent outlier, as it was the first 2021-premiering Netflix true-crime docuseries that ranked No. 1 in Netflix’s top U.S. TV series ranking in the day following its debut since “Crime Scene” dropped. 

But even if “Tiger King” continues to stay in high position in Netflix’s top U.S. TV series ranking, it wouldn’t change the fact that many of the streamer’s 2021-premiering original true-crime docuseries haven’t broken into that ranking at all. 

Data from connected TV analytics firm TVision appears to back up the picture of Netflix’s 2021 premiering true-crime docuseries that FlixPatrol’s data paints. As of December 1, the only true-crime docuseries that ranked among the most viewed 2021-premiering TV series among TVision panel members after March was S2 of “Tiger King,” for example. 

Rather than mark a sign of Netflix losing the secret sauce for a buzzy true-crime original series, FlixPatrol’s data may be more of an indicator of Netflix’s scripted content pipeline getting more robust throughout 2021. 

Netflix’s production pipeline was delayed by COVID, which caused the streamer to have a relatively light content slate in the beginning of the year. In recent months, Netflix has returned with seasons of marquee originals like “Money Heist” (pt. 1 of S5 in September) and “You” (S3 in October). 

The service has also more recently debuted bigger films, like “Red Notice,” which has been viewed for nearly 328.8 million hours by Netflix subs globally as of this writing.  

It’s possible that as more higher-profile scripted content has hit Netflix, some consumers have gravitated less toward unscripted true-crime original docuseries.