The Rise of Companion Documentaries on Netflix

Some of Netflix's biggest titles are getting companion documentaries to keep you hooked.

Kasey Moore What's on Netflix Avatar

netflix companion documentaries dahmer

Over the past few months, we’ve noticed a new prominent trend at Netflix. For some of their big movies and series, a companion documentary has been released either shortly afterward or beforehand. What’s behind this trend, and why is Netflix doing it? Let’s take a look.

Before we get into the why what exactly is happening here? As explained, some of Netflix’s fictional shows and movies are getting companion documentary series. This has or will be happening with at least 6 titles in the back half of 2022.

Here’s a rundown of which Netflix Original titles are getting the companion documentary treatment:

  • Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan’s DAHMER: Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story will have a companion documentary series in October 2022. That’s called Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes and will release on October 7th. The docuseries is part of a long-running series from Joe Berlinger.
blonde netflix movie

Picture: Netflix

  • The new Ana de Armas movie Blonde dives into the life of Marilyn Monroe. That came just a few months following The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes
  • Netflix’s Thai Cave Rescue: Limited Series will have a companion docu-series in early October called The Trapped 13: How We Survived The Thai Cave.
The good nurse netflix

Picture: Netflix

  • Set to debut on October 26th, The Good Nurse is about an ICU nurse who suspects a doctor may be causing unnecessary deaths starring Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain. Capturing the Killer Nurse is the companion documentary on the true story that inspired the movie. The docu-series is coming to Netflix in November.
  • The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman was a docu-series released earlier in 2022. In select Netflix regions, they licensed Rogue Agent, a feature film based on the same story.
  • Longer term, Eat The Rich: The GameStop Saga will see a companion GameStop movie launch further down the line.

The idea behind this strategy should be fairly obvious.

Say you’ve just finished the new Blonde movie and the credits are rolling. Netflix then throws up a recommendation for The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes. The likelihood is that if you’ve stuck right to the end, you’re completely immersed in the story.

Following the end of the credits, you may go off and search on Google, Wikipedia or YouTube about the movie’s protagonist. But with companion documentaries, Netflix can keep you in its ecosystem and engaged for a few hours longer with its own commissions.

mystery of marilyn monroe documentary suggestion

Marilyn Monroe docuseries recommended after finishing Blonde

What’s on Netflix contributor and academic at the Charles III University of Madrid, Christopher Meir, gave us deeper insights into move saying:

“The linked non-fiction content that Netflix often commissions, acquires or licenses to accompany high-profile film and drama series are examples of what media scholars call “paratexts”, works which are intended to encourage us to enrich our understanding of something we watched or in some cases to attract us to watch the more high-profile text to which it is linked (in Netflix’s case, by algorithms).

Examples of these paratexts are non-fiction documentaries recounting events that are dramatically re-created, or “making of” featurettes for some films and series, typically the awards contenders that Netflix launches every awards season. These kinds of texts are not particularly new in the context of film and television marketing and most recently would often feature prominently on DVD releases of films, for example. In this way, Netflix (as well as Amazon and HBO) is yet again building on existing industry practices while plugging them into its dynamic and data-driven technologies.”

Digital i’s Sophia Vahdati told us that the move is to help “extend the lifecycle of their content” and that it’s part of evolving strategies at Netflix.

Vahdati speaking about the evolving strategy, said, “First we saw split-release strategies and now the companion documentaries. Both tactics serve to keep viewers engaged once their interest has been sparked by a certain piece of content. Rather than binge a show and then forget it, the ‘engagement time’ is amplified.”

Are you enjoying Netflix’s new strategy of companion documentaries? Let us know in the comments.

Written by

Founder of What's on Netflix, Kasey has been tracking the comings and goings of the Netflix library for over a decade. Covering everything from new movies, series and games from around the world, Kasey is in charge of covering breaking news, covering all the new additions now available on Netflix and what's coming next.