Nielsen Streaming Ratings: Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Is the First Show to Garner 3 Billion or More Viewing Minutes in the Post-Pandemic Era

'Squid Game' on Netflix
(Image credit: Non Juhan/Netflix)

Netflix’s local-language series sensation Squid Game garnered a record breaking 3.26 billion streaming minutes in the U.S. for the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 3, according to Nielsen, making it the most watched show among the major subscription streaming services since the fifth season of Netflix’s The Crown debuted to 3.358 billion viewing minutes in November of 2020.

The only other programs to reach or surpass 3 billion streaming minutes are Netflix series Ozark, The Umbrella Academy, You, and Tiger King. Notably, all five Netflix originals—including The Crown—achieved the 3 billion-plus benchmark in the pandemic quarantine. 

Netflix's top weekly U.S. audience performances to date, as measured by Nielsen. (Image credit: Nielsen)

In fact, Tiger King, according to Nielsen, produced the biggest one-week U.S. audience since the research company began tracking Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney Plus and (starting last week) Apple TV Plus back in September 2020. During the week ending March 29, 2020 Tiger King garnered 5.338 billion viewing minutes.

As for Squid Game, it debuted each of its nine limited-series episodes on Sept. 17, garnering 206 million viewing minutes in its first three days on the platform. That wasn’t good enough to crack Nielsen’s top 10 rankings for the week of Sept. 13-19. However, Squid Game registered an impressive 1.91 billion minutes to lead Nielsen’s rankings for its first full week in the SVOD market, Sept. 20-26. 

(Image credit: Nielsen)

The exponential increase isn’t exactly surprising given the fact that the Korean-language, globally subtitled series enjoyed Netflix's biggest first-28-day premiere ever, with 142 million account holders worldwide watching at least two minutes of the series in its first four weeks on the platform.

So how is Squid Game bigger than, say, Tiger King? Squid Game’s outsized performance has been driven by global audiences. In Korea, for example, streaming demand for the show has been so great that an ISP has identified it in a lawsuit intended to make Netflix pay for some of its broadband network upgrades.

Squid Game is viewed by the broader video industry as having validated Netflix's strategy of dispersing its series and movie development resources, tapping into disparate local talents, such as Squid Game filmmaker Hwang Dong-Hyuk.

As for the rest of the top 10, it was all Netflix, as is usually the case for the platform that has nearly twice as many subscribers as its SVOD competitors.

Mike Flanagan’s seven-episode Netflix supernatural horror mini-series Midnight Mass, which debuted Sept. 24, took the No. 2 spot with 1.171 billion viewing minutes during the week ending Oct. 3. That would be an impressive number during any other week.

After just three days on Netflix, the 10-episode series Maid took the No. 3 spot with 850 million viewing minutes.  The series, starring Margaret Qualley, is based on Stephanie Land’s Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive and chronicles a single mother who turns to housekeeping to make ends meet. 

(Image credit: Nielsen)

The Season 9 premiere of The Great British Baking Show on Sept. 24 helped the series regain a spot on the top 10 list with 534 million viewing minutes for the week ending Oct. 3.

There was a tie for the No. 9 spot on Nielsen’s overall list. 

Dropping six spots week over week was Netflix’s Sex Education. The series, which debuted its third season on the streaming service Sept. 17, took the No. 9 spot generating 469 million viewing minutes. The teen comedy was renewed for a fourth season on Sept. 25.

Meanwhile, Antoine Fuqua’s Netflix movie The Guilty starring Jake Gyllenhaal also tallied 469 million viewing minutes during the week of Sept. 27. Gyllenhaal plays Joe, a street cop demoted to desk duty after an incident gone wrong. The film began streaming on Netflix Oct. 1. 

(Image credit: Nielsen)

Dropping off Nielsen’s main rankings was Apple TV Plus’ Ted Lasso, which made the big list during the week of Sept. 20, the first time ever that Nielsen ranked an Apple TV Plus show.

While Nielsen will continue to include Apple TV Plus in its charts going forward, HBO Max will remain out of the equation. An interesting decision given the fact that AT&T revealed last week that there were 45.2 million domestic HBO and HBO subscribers at the end of the quarter. Meanwhile Apple TV Plus has a subscriber base of between 20 and 40 million depending on who you talk to.

A Nielsen source told us the exclusion of HBO Max comes at the behest of “client discretion.” We asked HBO parent WarnerMedia about it, but there was no comment.

Apple TV Plus’ signature 21-episode series Ted Lasso did, however, rank No. 6 spot on the Nieslen’s “originals series” sub-rankings, tallying 455 million viewing minutes.

Debuting the seventh of its 10 first-season episodes on Sept. 28, Hulu’s star-studded comedy Only Murders in the Building took the No. 9 spot with 263 million viewing minutes. And finally, taking the No. 10 slot on the Originals chart was Disney Plus’ What if…with 223 million viewing minutes.

(Image credit: Nielsen)

Previous Weekly Rankings:

Sept. 20-26: Apple TV Plus’ ‘Ted Lasso’ Is a Surprise Top 10 Entry, While Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Is the Totally Unsurprising No. 1 Finisher

Sept. 12-19: Netflix Phenom ‘Squid Game’ Got Off to a Surprisingly Slow Start

Sept. 6-11: Netflix’s ‘Clickbait’ Holds Off Surging ‘Lucifer’

August 30 - Sept. 5: Netflix’s 'Clickbait' Steals Audience Traffic From 'Manifest'

August 23-29: Netflix’s 'Manifest' Soars Back to No. 1 with the Debut of Season 3

August 16-22: Netflix’s ’Outer Banks’ Loses 37% of Its Audience, Still Finishes No. 1

August 9-15: Netflix’s Scrappy ‘Outer Banks’ Maintains the No. 1 Spot

August 2-8: Netflix's ‘Outer Banks’ Surpasses 2.1 Billion Viewing Minutes

July 26 - August 1: Netflix's 'All American' Edges 'Outer Banks' for No. 1

July 19-25: Netflix’s ‘Virgin River’ Maintains the No. 1 Spot

July 12-18: Netflix’s ‘Virgin River’ Ends Five-Week ‘Manifest’ Winning Streak

July 5-11: #SaveManifest Movement Picks Up Steam as Netflix Series Becomes the Most Watched SVOD Show for 5th Straight Week

June 28-July 4: Amazon’s $200 Million Bet on Paramount’s ‘The Tomorrow War’ Pays Off

June 21-27: ‘Manifest’ Continues Series Saving Flight Plan on Netflix

June 14-20: Netflix’s ‘Manifest’ Scores the Year’s Biggest SVOD Audience So Far

June 7-13: Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth’ Shows Bite for the Week of June 7-13

May 31-June 6: Netflix’s ‘Lucifer’ Bedevils SVOD’s Biggest Audience Since Season 3 of 'Cobra Kai’ Debuted in January

May 24-30: Netflix’s ‘Lucifer’ Has SVOD’s Biggest Week* Since ‘Coming 2 America’ Debuted in Early-March

May  17-23: Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’ on Netflix Leads a Rather Lifeless Week for the U.S. Streaming Biz

May 10-16: ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ Not Good Enough For Netflix to Renew, But Strong Enough to Lead the Week of May 10-16

May 3-9: Netflix’s $100 Million Bet on Sony’s ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ Pays Off

April 26 - May 2: Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ Edges Hulu’s ‘Handmade’s Tale' in Rebound Week for the Streaming Biz

April 19-25: Netflix’s ‘NCIS’ Off-net Run Wins Another ‘Easttown and Down' Week for the U.S. SVOD Biz

April 12-18: Disney Plus’ ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Builds to 855 Million Streaming Minutes and a No. 1 Finish

April 5-11: Give Netflix's 'Thunder Force' Five for Winning the Week of April 5-11

March 29 - April 4: Netflix’s ‘The Irregulars’ Tops the Easter Week Charts

March 22-28: - 'Falcon and Winter Soldier' Tops SVOD Originals

March 15-21: - 'Grey's Anatomy' Re-Runs Top SVOD Ranker

March 8-14: - ‘The Crown’ Got Royal Gains from Meghan’s Big Oprah Interview

March 1-7: - Amazon Tops the Charts for the First Time with ‘Coming 2 America’

Feb 22-28: - Netflix’s 'Ginny & Georgia' Leads the SVOD Biz