“Squid Game,” the hyper-buzzy Korean drama that has become Netflix’s biggest-ever TV show, is on track to deliver an astounding payback for the streaming service, according to the company’s internal estimates.
Netflix paid $21.4 million for the nine-episode series, which premiered four weeks ago, and the company estimates “Squid Game” will deliver more than 40 times that — an estimated $891 million — in what it calls “impact value,” Bloomberg reported Saturday evening, citing confidential internal data that someone provided to the outlet. The proprietary metric is a measure of a title’s economic contribution to Netflix based on subscriber viewing.
Netflix declined to comment. According to Bloomberg’s report, a lawyer for Netflix told the news outlet that it would be “inappropriate” for Bloomberg to publish the confidential data contained in the documents.
On Friday, Netflix fired an employee who admitted they downloaded internal data and shared it outside the company, which is a violation of the streaming giant’s policies. The info included financial data for “Squid Game” and Dave Chappelle’s stand-up special “The Closer,” for which Netflix allegedly paid $24.1 million. The Chappelle special has become a lightning rod for critics upset about his homophobic and transphobic comments in “The Closer” and has led to a planned employee walkout on Oct. 20. The Netflix employee who leaked the data may have been motivated by a desire to tarnish the company’s image, by revealing that it paid more for “The Closer” than “Squid Game,” its new top-performing worldwide hit. The pink-slipped staffer was the only employee who had accessed data for the programming that was later cited by Bloomberg.
In the 23 days since the Sept. 17 debut of “Squid Game,” 132 million Netflix households streamed at least two minutes of the show, according to Bloomberg’s report. About 89% of those viewers watched at least 75 minutes (i.e., more than one episode) and 66% of them — or 87 million — finished the entire series within the first 23 days of its release. Overall, Netflix users streamed more than 1.4 billion hours of “Squid Game” over that 23-day period. (Note that Netflix’s measurements aren’t verified by a third party.)
In “Squid Game,” set in modern-day South Korea, 456 desperately debt-stricken contestants compete in a deadly competition of mysterious origin, pitting them against each other in a series of children’s games for the chance to win 45.6 billion won (about $38.5 million) in prize money.
“Squid Game” creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk said he intended the series to highlight the growing wealth gap in the modern world. “I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life,” he told Variety in an interview last month.