How Popular Tiger King Has Actually Been For Netflix, According To Nielsen Ratings

tiger king joe exotic feeding milk
(Image credit: netflix press)

For anyone who has logged into Netflix recently, or has done any Netflix-related Googling, it is abundantly clear just how popular the documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is. It's a mainstay on the streaming service's Top 10 lists, and has sparked tons of celebrity spoofs and follow-up projects. But because it's a Netflix show, it hasn't been entirely clear just how popular Tiger King actually is. Now, however, the Nielsen numbers are in, and their roar is mighty.

Here's how impressive Tiger King's numbers were for Netflix. According to Nielsen's estimates (per Variety), the docuseries' first ten days on the streaming service reached around 34.3 million unique viewers. That's obviously a huge number for any TV show, especially one airing in 2020, and it's well on its way to becoming one of Netflix's biggest debuts of all time.

It appears that during those first ten days (March 20-29), Tiger King had a per-minute average of 19 million viewers, signifying that viewers weren't just turning on the first few minutes and then shutting it off. People have taken a deep dive into the wacky, ethically challenging and at-times unbelievable world of Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and Doc Antle.

In comparison to other big Netflix hits of years past, Tiger King is ranking in the upper echelon. While Season 3 of the global phenomenon Stranger Things brought in an estimated 36.3 million viewers during its first ten days of release, Tiger King is thought to have cleanly topped the numbers brought in by Stranger Things' second season, which drew 31.2 million pairs of eyes during the same time window.

Things were just as comparable when viewed from a by-the-minute average. Stranger Things Season 2 brought in a per-minute average of around 17.5 million people, while Tiger King couldn't quite reach the sci-fi thriller's third season, which had an average of 20.5 million in comparison.

What's very important to note for Tiger King's success is how quickly its initially modest audience grew in size as the word-of-mouth opinions spread like a wildfire. Its first day earned around 741,000 unique viewers, with a by-the-minute audience (280,000) that was for that day lower than other Netflix premieres such as Altered Carbon Season 1. However, that number quickly rose up by the third day of release, where it was over a million per-minute viewers, and that total had jumped to over 4 million per-minute viewers on the ninth day.

Viewers probably had a clue about how well Tiger King was doing, considering the show has consistently ranked as the #1 most popular program across both movies and TV shows. The viewing data being measured to secure the Top 10 rankings are slightly different than the standard viewership measurements, but it's clearly deserving of the top spot.

Tiger King's popularity was quite evident on social media, also, as it was the most-tweeted about TV show during that ten-day time period. There were somewhere around 1.8 million fully organic tweets about the show. With many obsessed with musical ventures such as this:

Beyond all the spot-on celebrity impersonations, many viewers have spent their post-viewing time dreaming about who should be cast in a movie or TV show adaptation of Tiger King. There actually already is a TV show in the works with SNL vet Kate McKinnon set to executive produce and play Carole Baskin.

With another episode reportedly in the works, Tiger King Season 1 is available to stream in full right now on Netflix. Stay tuned for more developments about the show, and about Joe Exotic's health in prison, as well as his mega-lawsuit.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.