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Expand chart
Data: Parrot Analytics; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Documentaries were the fastest-growing genre on streaming last year, as more news companies leaned into licensing deals with streamers around current events.

Why it matters: Data from Parrot Analytics shows that there’s an appetite for news-adjacent content on-demand.

  • "While current events have always been fodder for entertainment programming, we’ve seen a rise in consumers’ appetite for content based on real-world events," says Jana Winograde, president of entertainment at Showtime Networks Inc.

Driving the news: New series and documentaries — both scripted and unscripted — are getting optioned around events as recent as the Capitol siege and Wall Street's GameStop saga.

  • On the scripted front, Winograde says Showtime is developing a limited scripted series about the Capital riots from the same creators of Showtime's miniseries "The Comey Rule," based on James Comey's 2018 book "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership."
  • On the unscripted front, Winograde says "we were thrilled with the consumer response" to Showtime's non-fiction projects "Kingdome of Silence" about Jamal Khashoggi's murder and "Outcry" a true crime documentary.
  • Both Discovery+ and Hulu are airing documentaries about the saga around GameStop and Wall Street's populist revolution from ITN Productions and ABC News, respectively.

Showtime is also in development on a limited-series called Superpumped based on New York Times reporter Mike Isaac’s bestselling book Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber. Hulu has just unveiled a documentary about WeWork's corporate drama.

  • Netflix recently debuted "Operation Varsity Blues," a scripted series about the celebrity college-admission scandal.
  • HBO Max and Netflix have each debuted documentaries about the perils of social media with "Fake Famous" and "The Social Dilemma."

By the numbers: Demand for documentaries has started to outpace the supply of documentary series available to consumers, according to Parrot Analytics.

  • From January 2019 to March 2021, the number of documentary series increased by 63%. But demand grew by 142%.

Between the lines: The evolution of streaming and technology has made it easier for studios and news companies to quickly turn around shows based on events shortly after they occur.

The bottom line: ”We have also found evidence that documentaries are increasingly becoming a useful retention tool (for streamers)," says Alejandro Rojas, director of applied analytics at Parrot Analytics.

Go deeper

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."

6 hours ago - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

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