'Tiger King,' 'Love Is Blind' Signal Reality Is "Next Battleground" for Streamers, Report Finds

Tiger King- Murder, Mayhem and Madness - Netflix Publicity 2 -H 2020

Reality shows are the third-most commissioned genre on streaming services behind documentaries and comedies.

In the future, you can expect a lot more Tiger King-style murder, mayhem and madness.

Netflix's true-crime docuseries, a runaway hit since its March 20 bow, is the latest unscripted show to strike gold for the streamer, following the oddly compelling dating format Love Is Blind and the social experiment competition series The Circle, both of which scored season renewals last month.

And there's more where that came from. Research published Wednesday by Ampere Analysis under the title "SVOD services wake up to Reality" shows that streaming platforms in the U.S. and U.K. last year commissioned 95 unscripted shows, making reality, by volume, the third-most popular genre among streaming services behind documentaries (152 commissions) and comedy specials (121 commissions).

The low cost and potential wide appeal of unscripted TV is driving the commissioning boom, according to Ampere analyst Olivia Deane. "Reality has been a staple for linear TV due to lower per-hour production costs and continued popularity among consumers," she says. "Reality looks like it will be the next battleground for linear and VOD services."

Netflix and its peers still have a lot of ground to make up though. Linear channels in the U.S. and U.K. commissioned 226 unscripted shows last year and ordered season renewals for 247 more, compared to just nine reality renewals across streaming platforms. High-profile unscripted linear renewals included a 19th and 20th season order for MTV’s U.K. reality series Geordie Shore, and a 17th season order for NBC’s music competition show The Voice. In total, 65 percent of all renewals on linear channels were for unscripted series, compared to 25 percent of all streaming renewals.

But just counting the number of shows doesn't tell the whole story. Budgets for unscripted fare are a fraction of those for high-end dramas, so account for a much smaller proportion of overall spend among the streaming giants.