Squid Game Money Made Netflix

Netflix’s Billion Dollar Squid Game Bet

Three of Netflix’s top shows are foreign produced, led by Squid Game, which is on track to become the company’s most watched show ever, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos proclaimed.

Squid Game’s rapid rise — it ranked №1 in the U.S. just four days after its September 17 premiere — has been faster than any other non-English series. The show is now expected to be seen by more than 82 million subscribers worldwide in its first 28 days.

Squid Game has become such a hit that a local Internet provider is suing Netflix to pay for the huge increase in bandwidth use caused by people streaming the show.

Behind Squid Game’s sudden success is Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Global TV chief who took lead a year ago and oversees production of local language originals in 40 countries.

With 65% of Netflix’s 209 million subscribers outside of the U.S. and Canada, Bajaria has been doubling down on investment in overseas markets. In Korea alone, Netflix spent $700 million from 2015 through 2020 to produce 80 films and series, and plans to spend another $500 million this year. Business consulting firm Deloitte estimates that Netflix has contributed $4.7 billion in U.S. dollars to the Korean economy.

Bajaria said Netflix does not rely on algorithms to identify the types of shows to make.

“We greenlight shows based on gut and human judgment. It’s the idea, the tone, and alchemy of so many things coming together,” said Bajaria. “There’s just no substitute for that.”

Netflix knew Squid Game was going to be big in Korea because it had a well-regarded director with a bold vision,” she said, referring to Hwang Dong-hyuk, known for dark social justice films.

But the show spiking to №1 globally as fast as it did took everyone by surprise.

The show’s 50-year-old creator and director, Dong-hyuk came up with the unsettling concept more than a decade ago, while living with his mother and grandmother.

At one point, Hwang was forced to sell his laptop to get by, which meant he couldn’t keep writing the Squid Game script, though I’m guessing at some point he laid his hands on another machine and got the job done.

It seems that “Squid Game” — with its brutal killings as contestants compete to the death for money — wasn’t the most attractive storyline 10 or so years ago. But the COVID-19 pandemic shifted some thinking according to Netflix.

“The world has changed,” Dong-hyuk said, with certain economic realities laid bare by the pandemic making the story “very realistic for people [now] compared to a decade ago.”

In addition to the $1.2 billion it has spent in Korea on production over the past six years, Netflix splurged more than $1 billion in the U.K, $400 million in India, and $300 million in Mexico last year, in addition to other markets..

“The cost of creating content in these markets is also less than it is in the U.S., so Squid Game is not only hugely successful relative to their current top series, but it’s at a fraction of the cost.”

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