After its local-language Korean sci-fi drama Squid Game ascended to the top of the audience charts in 90 countries in just over a week, freaking out ISPs over its associated traffic demands in some cases, Netflix received a rather conspicuous hat tip from one of its biggest streaming rivals.
". @ReedHastings and Ted Sarandos and the team at @Netflix get it right so often. Their internationalization strategy isn’t easy, and they’re making it work. Impressive and inspiring. (And I can’t wait to watch the show.)," tweeted Amazon founder and aspiring astronaut Jeff Bezos on Saturday.
Is this an indicator that Amazon Studios will soon reorganize itself and start developing more local-language shows, like the nine-part Squid Game?
Responding to a follow-up query, Bezos tweeted, "No, just simple admiration."
Regardless, the recognition capped a stunning emergence for the dystopian limited series about an island full of kids games, in which the adult winners take home huge cash prizes, while the losers simply die.
Writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Squid Game debuted Sept. 17 in the U.S., a subtitled series with no discernible brand recognition.
By Sept. 27, the show was ranked as "No. 1 in the U.S," when Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos told tech impresario Kara Swisher at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills that Squid Game was pacing to become the streaming service's most watched show ever.
In the realm of social media, meanwhile, the hashtag #SquidGame has been viewed on TikTok more than 23 million times.
In Korea, the show has been so avidly streamed that local internet services provider SK Broadband has sued Netflix, claiming that the associated traffic spike has generated unreasonable network maintenance costs.
Scoring a strong 93% from critical review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes--but given a decided meh by our own fussy critic--Squid Game has become the poster child for Netflix's local-language strategy, with the streaming company dispersing its programming development resources to disparate hot spots all over the world.
Interviewed by Vulture late last week, Netflix's global TV chief, Bela Bajaria, said that she, along with Minyoung Kim, whose content chief of the Asia-Pacific region that includes Korea, expected big things from Squid Game, since Korean dramas have grown their audiences by a collective 200% on Netflix over the previous two years.
“We always knew it was going to be a signature title for Korea, but there’s no way to have anticipated it would be this big," Bajaria said.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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