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Viewership of The Handmaid's Tale in the U.S. 2018

According to a survey held in late 2019, only a small share of respondents were fans of Hulu series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – just nine percent had watched some of the series and eight percent had watched all of it. However, the remaining 83 percent of surveyed adults said that they had never watched the show or never heard of it. A separate survey on frequency of watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ among U.S. adults gave similar results, with just eight percent watching the show on a weekly basis.

Interestingly though, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ often features in the top ten most popular digital original TV shows based on audience demand, generating similar amounts of online engagement, downloads, streams, and discussion as Netflix show ’13 Reasons Why’ or DC’s ‘Titans’. The series is admittedly niche in terms of its subject matter, and whilst this may alienate some viewers, the show is simultaneously likely to generate serious interest among fans of dystopian fiction.

What is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ about?

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a dystopian drama TV series originally created by Hulu in 2017 and is based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name. Both the book and the TV series deal with topics including sexual slavery and female subjugation and are set in a totalitarian society named Gilead in which free will no longer exists. The story is centered around Offred, one of many Handmaids whose sole purpose is to bear children for couples who cannot or struggle to conceive children of their own. In the novel, Offred’s former life is only alluded to in flashbacks, whilst the TV series follows Offred’s attempts to find the daughter taken from her years earlier. Offred’s name is a combination of the words ‘of Fred’ to denote the man she was assigned to, and critics have also noted the similarity between ‘Offred’ and the word ‘offered’.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is one of several dystopian TV shows to be released in the last few years, along with HBO miniseries ‘Chernobyl’, ‘Black Mirror’, and ‘Westworld’. Data shows that dystopian themes are especially popular among younger viewers, and consumers in this category have proved themselves to be some of the most discerning. Younger generations have demonstrated a growing interest in content which focuses on political, feminist, pro-LGBTQ+, and environmental topics, and are more likely to have seen video content addressing sexism or racism.

Share of adults who have ever watched The Handmaid's Tale in the United States as of December 2018

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Release date

January 2019


United States

Survey time period

December 7 - 9, 2018

Number of respondents

2,201 respondents

Age group

18 years and older

Method of interview

Online survey

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Statistics on "Television in the U.S."

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