By now, it feels as if our quarantined pop culture collective has been split into those who have seen—and can’t stop talking about—the Netflix series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, and those who haven’t and are tired of being inundated by it. However, it seems that the show’s success now has something to cite other than ubiquitous word-of-mouth: impressive hard numbers.
While the parameters for actual Netflix views are notoriously opaque, Variety reports that the researchers of Nielsen have provided a quantitative evaluation of the Tiger King phenomenon, citing a U.S. streaming television audience of 34.3 million unique viewers drawn from the first 10 days of its release, which spanned from March 20-29. This number puts the documentary series in rarefied air among the streaming giant’s content, topping a similar 10-day total for 2017’s Season 2 of scripted crown jewel Stranger Things, which earned 31.2 million unique viewers. Additionally, it barely placed below Stranger Things Season 3, which earned 36.3 million in the same 10-day span.
The cited number becomes rather shocking when considering how Stranger Things Season 2 saw Netflix spend about $8 million each for its 9-episode frame (as Variety cited in 2017,) only to have Tiger King—a documentary series shot on the cheap with no stars or CGI expenses—come along just a few years later and best that season by over 3 million viewers. Indeed, the humbling statistics don’t even stop there, with Nielsen also citing an “average per-minute basis” metric, in which Tiger King wrangled an audience of 19.0 million U.S. viewers from March 20-29, again besting Stranger Things Season 2 (17.5 million) and similarly within claw-swiping distance of Season 3 (20.5 million). Moreover, Nielsen also cites that Tiger King generated 1.8 million total organic (nonpaid) interactions on Twitter, making it the most-tweeted television series between March 20-29.
The Nielsen numbers also reveal that Tiger King was initially a slow starter, earning an “average minute” audience of 280,000 U.S. viewers and 741,000 unique viewers for its March 20 premiere, putting it well below the launch days of Netflix scripted fare such as Mindhunter Season 2 (395,000) and Altered Carbon Season 1 (335,000). However, Tiger King would start pouncing the competition soon enough, with numbers in the same metric jumping to 1 million viewers by its third day, 2 million by its first week, and 4 million by its ninth day.
Of course, conventional wisdom already knows why Tiger King’s sudden stratospheric launch occurred. The period of late-March proved to be a crucial precipice in the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in what was once recommended simple social distancing practices becoming widely upgraded to stay-at-home orders. Consequently, with more people home-bound than at any time in recent memory, an increased desire for (topically distracting) streaming content became the perfect atmosphere in which the colorful characters and ever-escalating spectacle of the feud between rival big cat keepers Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin would thrive.
Interestingly enough, Tiger King’s already-shocking draw might see an increase, with (as of now unconfirmed) reports that Netflix is looking to add an episode to the series, which would expand the inaugural season to eight episodes. The bonus episode would likely serve as an updated epilogue focused on the fallout of the events chronicled on the series, notably the incarceration of central figure Joe Exotic in an alleged murder-for-hire plot against nemesis Carole Baskin. Yet, the new episode claim came from fellow big cat entrepreneur eccentric Jeff Lowe, who, as the series implies, might bear some connection (at least by proxy,) to said murder-for-hire plot.
Regardless, the (clearly ongoing) drama of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness can be binged on Netflix right now.