Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos says that the streamer’s latest original Korean-language series, Squid Game, may be their most successful show yet.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos says that the breakout South Korean thriller series, Squid Game, has the potential to be the streamer’s biggest hit of all time. Squid Game debuted on Netflix earlier this month to glowing praise from both critics and audiences. The series is directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk and features an all-star cast including Lee Jung-jae (New World), Gong Yoo (Train to Busan), and Heo Sung-tae (The Age of Shadows). Since the show’s release less than two weeks ago, Squid Game has consistently remained the number one show in Netflix’s “Top 10 in the U.S. Today” category.
The show’s premise is simple: 456 contestants face off in a series of children’s games competing for a pot of ₩45.6 billion KRW (approximately $38.7 million USD). The catch? In the vein of survival movies like Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, losing contestants are eliminated by death. The circumstances surrounding the game’s origins and ultimate purpose are shrouded in mystery, with the only common thread linking the contestants being a shared financial struggle.
Sarandos recently sat down with Deadline to discuss Netflix’s latest viewership numbers. While the Netflix co-CEO touched on a number of topics – such as the streamer’s lack of viewership metrics transparency and the recent lawsuit filed against Disney by Scarlett Johansson – one of the more intriguing tidbits Sarandos imparted was Squid Games stellar performance on the platform. He claims that Squid Game “could be Netflix’s biggest show ever if the early viewership results hold.” Check out the full details below:
Sarandos also estimated that the recently released South Korean death match drama Squid Game could be Netflix’s biggest show ever if the early viewership results hold — numbers that the exec in a display of a lack of transparency did not reveal Monday.
Squid Game’s meteoric success in the U.S. is highly surprising for a number of reasons, the first being the lack of recognizable star power for a US-based audience. Although Squid Game’s cast is star-studded by South Korean standards, relatively few of its actors would be immediately recognizable to an American audience (perhaps apart from Gong Yoo, though his limited role in the series amounts to little more than a cameo). Furthermore, the lack of a coordinated marketing push, in comparison to the streamer’s more established franchises like Stranger Things and The Witcher, shows that the buzz surrounding the show is carried entirely through word-of-mouth.
Netflix’s success with Squid Game is but one branch of the latest wave of Hallyu, a portmanteau of the Korean words for “Korea(n)” and “wave” that describes the growing popularity of Korean culture overseas. With K-pop music frequently topping music charts and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite winning best picture at the Academy Awards in 2019, South Korean popular culture is near ubiquitous these days. Netflix would be wise to continue to invest in original Korean-language programming – a niche that they’ve already carved for themselves with shows like Kingdom, Extracurricular, and now Squid Game.
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