By Melissa Henson
If you’ve recently tried to find something on Netflix, or Prime Video (or any major streaming service, for that matter) that you can safely enjoy with your entire family – and given up after a few minutes of searching the menu and finding nothing but TV-MA-rated titles – you are not alone, and you’re not wrong.
A new Parents Television and Media Council study, Families Need Not Subscribe: An Analysis of the Scarcity of Family Content on Streaming Platforms, shows that across the major streaming services, (Apple TV+, Hulu, Max, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock and Prime Video) content rated for “mature audiences only” dominates.
There’s at least 268% more adult-only entertainment on streaming platforms than there is content that’s suitable for families!
We know that families want to watch TV together. Streamers know it, too. It’s an easy, affordable, low-stress way for families to spend time together, and according to one survey, 62% of respondents said that watching TV together as a family helped them bond. Yet less than 20% report watching TV with children under the age of 18.
Why is that?
When families want to unwind over the shared experience of watching a TV program or movie together, they should have options beyond Game of Thrones or Sesame Street – but this research shows there aren’t many options between those two extremes.
Among the streaming services studied, Prime Video is the worst for family programming. Less than 3% of original content is rated TV-G or TV-PG (Amazon has an additional “All” age rating, which was applied to one program. Combined, there were only six Prime Video originals rated “All,” TV-G, or TV-PG).
AppleTV+ is the best for family programming and offers the largest number of TV-G-rated original programs. Twenty-six out of 139 programs were rated for general audiences, or 19%. Only 6% were rated PG. Half (50%) of all original content on AppleTV+ is rated TV-MA.
Peacock comes in just behind AppleTV+ for offering the highest percentage of family-suitable content. 20% of original content on Peacock is rated PG and 8% is rated TV-G. Thirty-seven percent of original series on Peacock are rated TV-MA.
On Hulu, 69% of original programs were rated TV-MA. Only 6% were rated TV-PG and only 1 was rated TV-G, meaning that for every 1 family-suitable program on Hulu, there are more than ten that are for adult audiences only.
On MAX, 62% of original programs are rated TV-MA. Only 14% are rated TV-PG, and 1% are rated TV-G. Seven out of 20 of the PG-rated original programs on MAX were reality competitions.
62% of Netflix originals are rated TV-MA, 6% are TV-PG, and less than 1% are rated TV-G, meaning again that adult-only programs outnumber family-suitable programs 10:1.
On Paramount+, 53% of original series are rated TV-MA; 9% are rated TV-PG; and 1% are rated TV-G.
What these data points show is that there’s something bigger at stake here than missed opportunities for family movie nights.
Increasingly in homes across America, each member of the family retreats into their own corner of the home with their phone or tablet or laptop… and consumes their own media in isolation, not interacting other family members, not engaging with real people. Mom and Dad might be watching the news in one room, while one child plays games on his laptop in another, and another scrolls through TikTok videos on her phone in another.
Kids are suffering from the lack of human connection. They are suffering from feelings of isolation, not just from friends, but from family – and these problems are often exacerbated by technology use.
Reinstating a family movie night could go a long way toward alleviating these feelings of loneliness and isolation. But for families to do that, streamers need to program for families.
Melissa Henson is the vice president of the Parents Television and Media Council, a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. On X: @ThePTC