Variety reported the true crime docuseries had 34.3 million unique viewers in the United States from March 20-29, making it one of Netflix’s most popular series in recent memory. “Tiger King,” which centers on notorious zookeeper and 2016 presidential candidate Joe Exotic and other big cat conservationists, topped “Stranger Things” Season 2’s first 10 days viewership record and came close to beating last year’s enormously popular “Stranger Things” Season 3, which Nielsen said drew 36.3 million users in that same period of time.
The Nielsen numbers provide further confirmation that “Tiger King” has become one of 2020’s early standouts. Though the project wasn’t an immediate hit — Variety noted its initial viewership wasn’t extraordinary and was behind shows such as Netflix’s “Mindhunter” and “Altered Carbon” — the docuseries’ bizarre subjects and ideal release date, where viewers are cooped up indoors and hungry for new content, helped “Tiger King” sink its claws deep. Word-of-mouth helped the series spread, thanks to 1.8 million “Tiger King” tweets from March 20-29, according to Variety.
Netflix does not regularly release its own viewership data but recently began offering daily Top 10 rankings of its most popular shows. Variety notes that “Tiger King” has been the streaming service’s top title in the United States over the last two weeks.
The story of Joe Exotic, who was arrested for a murder-for-hire plot, isn’t going to end at Netflix: Fox announced on Wednesday that it is planning to air an hour long special from TMZ about the docuseries’ subjects on Monday, April 13. The special, titled “TMZ Investigates: Tiger King – What Really Went Down?” will be hosted by Harvey Levin and promises new interviews and never-before-seen footage.
“Tiger King” has been a massive success with viewers and has also received glowing reviews from critics. IndieWire’s Steve Greene lauded the docuseries as telling an “electrifying story” and predicted it would become the streaming industry’s next documentary obsession.
That said, some animal experts, such as leading tiger biologist John Goodrich have taken issue with the series. Goodrich slammed it for skimming over or ignoring animal abuse and said it offered no useful information about tiger conservation.