TV Content Trends: Canada vs. United States

Do Canadians and Americans love the same TV genres? Despite many similarities, TV producers and distributors must devise custom-made strategies for each country, according to Parrot Analytics data.

By Kayla Hegedus (MIP Blog)

A common perception outside of Canada is that our country is very similar to the United States, differentiated only by our love of hockey and Tim Hortons. However, there are significant differences between both markets.

Using Parrot Analytics’ cross-market, cross-platform demand data, the popularity of TV titles was compared between the two countries (the demand for subgenres was averaged over 2017 and ranked in both countries). This revealed broad trends that illustrate the importance of treating each market quite specifically and individually.

Canadians love historical adventure TV series

Many subgenres rank highly in both markets and are often driven by a single popular title (e.g., The Walking Dead in the case of apocalyptic dramas). However, the subgenre rankings do vary, revealing differences between both countries, as illustrated in the table below.

Historical adventure titles rank second in Canada due to the popular Canadian production Vikings, whereas these titles rank only fifth in the United States in terms of average demand.

The largest difference in rank concerns suspense horror titles (such as American Horror Story): these titles rank ninth in Canada but only thirteenth in the United States.

The percent difference between Canadian and US demand for these genres is calculated to quantify these differences in subgenre preferences:

Compared to their popularity in the United States, drama and horror genres over-index in Canada. Some comedies with darker undertones, such as comedy-horror or adult-oriented animated sitcoms, are also in greater demand in Canada than they are south of the border.

In contrast, genres with fantastic elements—fantasy, superheroes, and science fiction—are less popular in Canada. These genres generally deal with lighter themes and stories than dramas and horror titles; Canadians seem to like their TV dark and gritty.

However, we still appreciate certain forms of escapism: historical adventure titles are 75% more popular in Canada than in the US but, here again, the hit show Vikings is the primary driver explaining this.

These preferences are exemplified by last year’s top titles. Three of the ten most popular shows in Canada are unique to the market; they do not rank within the top-ten titles in the United States:

Vikings ranks fourth in Canada, driving the high demand for historical adventure series. US titles Grey’s Anatomy and American Horror Story are more popular in Canada than in their home market and represent the medical drama and suspense horror genres respectively.

Canadians prefer long-running TV series than new hits

The titles that are more popular in Canada also tend to be older series counting five or more seasons. This indicates that mature shows such as these have a stronger audience in Canada than in the US, where they may be superseded in popularity by new hits.

In the United States, these titles are replaced by The Flash, Star Trek: Discovery and Shameless.

In fact, the new sci-fi hit Star Trek: Discovery does not even rank among the top 20 shows in Canada, illustrating the relatively low demand for this genre in the Canadian market and the tendency for older titles to be more popular.

The remaining titles among the Canadian top ten, especially The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, also rank highly in many other markets, so the inclusion of unique titles among the top ten is significant and indicative of the Canadian market’s preferences.


This article is published here as part of an editorial partnership between CMF Trends and MIP Blog.

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