Data: How ‘Squid Game’ Stacks Up Against Netflix’s Top Non-English Titles in the U.S.

Squid Game
Yinchen Niu/Variety Intelligence Platform

The hype surrounding Netflix’s Korean-language thriller series “Squid Game” has been unavoidable in recent weeks. 

Netflix announced earlier this week that “Squid Game” had Netflix’s biggest-ever series debut. The company’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos felt comfortable saying the Korean-language thriller would “for sure” be the streaming service’s “biggest non-English-language show in the world” just 10 days after it debuted on Sept. 17. 

What’s been less clear is how much more quickly “Squid Game” caught fire in the U.S. relative to Netflix’s other marquee non-English-language titles. 

Data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform courtesy of YouGov Stream shows that “Squid Game” was viewed by more U.S. viewers in 14 days than any other non-English Netflix title ever.  

“Squid Game” was watched by 25.9 million U.S. viewers in the 14 days following its release, according to YouGov Stream. Top non-English-language Netflix originals like S1 of “Who Killed Sara?” (13.7 million) and S1 of “Lupin” (12.5 million) both attracted about half that figure in the two weeks following debut.  

YouGov Stream measures the viewing activity of 40,000 panel members throughout the U.S./U.K. and scales the sample to be platform representative. The company’s streaming data reflects viewership across all devices including smart TVs. Titles must be viewed for at least three seconds to be counted as viewed, and one panel member cannot account for more than one view of a certain title. 

Dwarfing the first seasons of “Who Killed Sara?” and “Lupin” in the U.S. within 14 days is an impressive feat. “Who Killed Sara?” (S1) and “Lupin” (S1) are two of the most successful non-English Netflix series launches to date. 

Netflix regularly discloses the global number of households reached by select high-performing titles during earnings calls, industry events or via social media, but YouGov Stream’s numbers help provide an idea of how quickly certain titles have taken off in the U.S. specifically. 

When factoring in English-language originals, "Squid Game” doesn’t hold the record for most U.S. viewers reached within two weeks, according to YouGov Stream. 

“Tiger King” and “Stranger Things” S3 were viewed by more U.S. viewers within 14 days of release than “Squid Game” was, according to YouGov. This suggests that "Squid Game" was strongly boosted to become Netflix’s most viewed title globally by non-U.S. based streamers and views during the third and fourth weeks following its debut. 

Regardless, the fact that “Squid Game” has been such a big hit in the U.S. is indicative of the show’s overall value to Netflix. The streaming service only added just over 5.5 million subs globally in H1 ’21, with most additions coming from outside UCAN and occurring in Q1 after getting hit by COVID production delays. 

Hits such as “Squid Game” will help Netflix retain eyeballs while rivals drop highly anticipated titles in the months ahead, like Disney+’s “Hawkeye” or HBO Max’s day-and-date film “Dune” (check out VIP+’s most anticipated streaming originals of Q4 2021).