WINNER TAKES ALL
YOU South Africa|28 October 2021
Korean series Squid Game has taken the world by storm, shattering streaming records. So what’s all the hype about?
MAXINE PETERS

BYE Bridgerton, so long The Crown, au revoir Lupin – there’s a new binge boss in town and it’s sucking in viewers like no other.

Squid Game, the Korean horror-thriller series that everyone is talking about, shot to the No 1 spot on Netflix in 94 countries within a month of its launch on 17 September, raking in 111 million fans and becoming the first South Korean show to go to number one in the US.

To put the numbers into context, previous record holder Bridgerton had 82 million viewers in the show’s first 28 days.

And Squid Game’s 111 million viewers represent more than half of Netflix’s 209 million subscribers, which gives you a fair idea of the hype around it.

“It’s beyond our wildest dreams,” says Minyoung Kim, Netflix’s vice-president of content in Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

But it hasn’t been without controversy. Critics have accused it of being gratuitously violent, badly translated and its premise unoriginal.

And then there was the South Korean internet service that sued Netflix to get it to pay the costs of increased network traffic and maintenance work because of the huge surge of viewers.

Still, on and on the phenomenon surges. “We didn’t see this coming, in terms of its global popularity,” says Ted Sarandos, the streamer’s co-CEO.

“Squid Game will definitely be our biggest non-English language show in the world and there’s a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever.”

THE PLOT

Set in modern-day South Korea, 456 strangers – mostly ordinary people mired in crippling debt – volunteer to take part in a contest where they will play six children’s games.

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