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Netflix Crime Documentaries Help Drive Bingeing

As viewers seek new shows to binge watch, there seems to be no shortage of programming for them to choose from. Four recent crime documentaries on Netflix seem to have whet viewers appetites and many are reacting on social media.  I analyzed each show on Canvs to understand the viewers emotions and the topics they were discussing. I used the drop date of the series plus 6 days as the analysis window.  

The crime documentaries reviewed were:

  • American Murder: The Family Next Door
  • Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel
  • Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer
  • Murder Among the Mormons

Overall Rankings

To start with some overall rankings of the documentaries, Cecil Hotel gained the most overall reactions during the airing window with over 20k total tweets, 48% of those including some sort of emotion, with the highest percentage aligned with CRAZY. 

CRAZY Tweets: 

  •  “this cecil hotel has me shook af and scared”
  • “Just finished The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and … WTF”

What may seem a conundrum of a reaction, Night Stalker had the overall highest reactions related to LOVE or ENJOY. Based on the outpouring, viewers can’t get enough of crime stories that are bigger than life. Likely not a coincidence that Night Stalker also had the highest percentage of AFRAID.

LOVE tweets:

  •  “night stalker on netflix is amazing!! 12/10 recommend!!”
  • “The Night Stalker series on Netflix is 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥”

AFRAID tweets:

  • “I’m actually terrified watching the night stalker doc on Netflix”
  • “Night stalker is sooooo creepy! Watch on Netflix NOW”

Murder Among the Mormons did not receive the same fanfare during the drop window, with half the overall reactions of American Murder and Night Stalker; and a quarter of the overall reactions to Cecil Hotel; however, of those that viewed the documentary, the series performed very well percentage wise, gaining second in several categories, including LOVE, EXCITED and CRAZY, but also had by far the most viewers reacting with INTERESTING. Nearly 11% of comments were categorized as INTERESTING, 5 to 10 times greater than the other 3 series; identifying it may be the sleeper of the group. 

INTERESTING tweets:

  • “Highly recommend this Netflix doc. Just fascinating stuff.”
  • “This was so much more interesting than I expected!”

While American Murder also ranked very high in terms of CRAZY reactions with nearly 22% of comments including the emotion, it also stood out with the highest rate of SAD and HATE; both 2x higher than the next highest series reviewed.  The reactions are very likely due to the family orientation of the tragedy.

SAD tweets:

  • “American murder on Netflix is devastating”
  • “Watching #AmericanMurderTheFamilyNextDoor and I’m having to pause it and walk away every so often 😭 It breaks my heart for Shanann of course but for the little ones even more.“

HATE tweets:

  • “Me yelling at the TV, telling this piece of garbage he deserves to be haunted for the rest of his pathetic life. #AmericanMurder”
  • “American Murder: The Family Next Door was the most disturbing and sickening thing I’ve ever seen. That man is pure evil.”

BINGE and BRANDS

Beyond how each crime series performed and related on an emotional level with viewers, I also found great insights into the ways that crime series and viewers related. There was a great deal of commentary about viewers looking for the next show to binge. Crimes Series seemed to be a favorite addiction for many, but it was also clear they didn’t want to watch alone.  Snacking and Bingeing went hand in hand.  Here are a few of the tweets:

  • “A White Claw and a binge sesh of Night Stalker on Netflix. ✔️”
  • “Woke up to the craziest thunder storm and our gig in New Smyrna Beach postponed so… Cheerios in bed and time to binge Cecil Hotel! What’s everyone up to today??”
  • “Low key glad no ones Netflix is logged in on my phone 📱 cause I started watching the Night Stalker Documentary on Netflix earlier & now I’m at the Starbucks drive thru wanting to watch it while I wait, see this is why I can’t do shows 😫”
  • “[W]atching Murder Among the Mormons on @netflix, and ordered $40 worth of @tacobell on @DoorDash Happy 26th Birthday you magnificent poetic land mermaid #birthday #InternationalWomensDay”
  • “Cecil hotel on netflix & pizza hut 😊”
  • “Does it make me a %$%^& person to happily lick the Cheetos dust off my fingers while listening to him give details about murdering his wife? #truecrime #AmericanMurder #ChrisWatts #shannanwatts”

And while they are eating and binging, viewers are also learning. Many expressed the notion these are new topics, and crazy ones at that; keeping them hooked and wanting more. A few more tweets on learning:

  • Just watched #AmericanMurderTheFamilyNextDoor and I am SICKKKK! I never knew the details of that happened and I am shook to the core. He never deserved their love.
  • ’m so shook that I never knew about Elisa Lam and the Cecil Hotel! 😳 Such a crazy story!
  • I’m kind of upset with myself that I never knew about that night stalker dude until Netflix came out with a docuseries about it. It was literally like 30 years ago, that’s recent history.
  • #NightStalker on netflix is 100% worth the watch. I never knew anything about the Richard Ramirez case until watching it. It captures that story perfectly
  • I like most true crime docuseries, but #NightStalker on Netflix might be one of the best ones I’ve seen. Could be because I had never heard of the serial killer, but it’s extremely well done and gripping the entire way
  • I had never heard of the Watts’ family story and I just watched American Murder on Netflix and my heart is broken for those babies 💔💔💔 I hope they are resting peacefully
  • Watching the #CecilHotel on Netflix, check it out, very interesting and creepy. Apparently I live under a rock because I’ve never heard of this case.
  • Murder Among the Mormons is pretty wild. It’s crazy that I had never heard about all of that stuff until now.

A few things to take away:

  • Viewers love them a good crime documentary. Whether we are intrigued by the content, hate what happened, scared it will happen again, or have empathy for the victims, we need more crime series.
  • Viewers binge, will continue to binge, and need better ways to become aware of new series that will keep them interested. Using a system like Canvs to identify similar reactions and audiences could help target like audiences, and empower more direct advertising.
  • Viewers don’t like to binge alone; advertisers will do well to put their food and beverage products inline with series to encourage continued bingeing and eating. 

Source: Canvs, Top Emotions during the drop date plus 6 days. Canvs emotion measurement consists of 42 core emotions proprietary to the Canvs platform, which identifies through public comments how viewers are reacting to airings.

Canvs is the easiest and most accurate Customer Insights platform to instantly analyze open-ended text, going beyond traditional sentiment analysis to provide best-in-class emotion and topical measurement.