Nearly a third of Disney+’s original commissions, so far, have been documentaries, with factual titles accounting for 15 of the 54 new TV commissioned shows it has announced, according to UK-based market research firm Ampere Analysis. Of the 653 titles available in Disney+’s US launch catalogue, 8% of them are documentaries.
The factual push is likely part of the streamer’s efforts to reach a broader co-viewing audience, says Ampere’s research director Richard Cooper. Disney+’s VP of original unscripted content previously told Kidscreen that the streamer is looking to launch hyper-niche shows like Encore—about adults recreating their original high school musical performances years later—because that show can appeal to theater lovers of any age. Nielsen confirms unscripted can serve as a potential gold mine for eyeballs: Between 2011 and 2018 the viewing share of unscripted content, rose to 32% last year (from 24% in 2011).
Disney might be trying to echo Amazon and Netflix by loading up the streamer with factual content, says Cooper. The streaming service is joining the market with a much smaller launch catalogue than some of the market’s other players—it’s about one-sixth the size of Netflix’s, Cooper says. Ampere found that of Netflix’s catalogue 8.8% of its content hours in the US were documentary or biography titles, while Amazon Prime Video’s was up to 17.9%.
Factual content is also very on-brand for Disney, according to Cooper. The streaming service is able to leverage the strength of the Disney name in new titles like the feature-length doc and 52-episode series about the House of Mouse titled One Day at Disney, as well as a six hour-long eps of The Imagineering Story about the history and future of the Disney brand. It’s also commissioned Dolphin Reef, On Pointe and which all connect to Disney’s perennial focus on dancing, nature and superheroes.