‘Squid Game’ helps Netflix subscriptions pick up
By Daniel Thomas
Netflix subscriptions picked up in the third quarter of 2021 as non-English language shows continued to be the streaming platform’s best performers.
The US firm added 4.4 million users in the three months to 30 September, more than double the previous quarter.
Korean TV series Squid Game was its biggest hit, watched by 142 million households in its first four weeks.
It comes as some Netflix staff prepared to walk out yesterday (20) amid a backlash over comedian Dave Chappelle.
They accuse the star of mocking transgender people in his latest Netflix special, but the firm has defended him.
The strong performance for Netflix follows a sluggish start to 2021, when the surging demand for streaming seen earlier on in the pandemic petered out.
The US firm, which is the world’s largest streaming platform, now expects to add some 8.5 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter, above analysts’ expectations.
It’s being driven by popular shows such as Sex Education, The Queen’s Gambit, and the global smash Squid Game.
The dystopian series, which tells the story of a group of people forced to play deadly children’s games for money, has become a viral sensation and dethroned period drama Bridgerton as Netflix’s most popular show to date.
According to Bloomberg, the Korean series is thought to be worth some $ 900 million to the streaming giant, after costing $ 21.4 million to make.
Another non-English language show, La Casa de Papel (aka. Money Heist), also did well, with series five being watched by 69 million viewers in its first four weeks.
“We are now producing local TV and film in approximately 45 countries and have built deep relationships with creative communities around the world,” Netflix said in a letter to shareholders.
The firm expects to attract more new users in the run up to Christmas with returning seasons of popular shows such as Tiger King and Cobra Kai.
It also agreed to acquire the Roald Dahl Story Company in September, pending regulatory approval, and so will own the rights to titles like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.
The David Chappelle special The Closer saw the boundary-pushing comic joking that “gender is a fact” and accusing LGBTQ people of being “too sensitive”.
In one skit, Chappelle, who is black, says: “In our country, you can shoot and kill (a black man), but you’d better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”
Ahead of a rally yesterday at Netflix’s California headquarters, a group representing trans staff told the firm to stop “platforming hate speech” and issued a series of demands.
“We want the company to adopt measures in the areas of content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction, all of which are necessary to avoid future instances of platforming transphobia and hate speech,” they said in a statement.
In a memo to staff earlier this month, Netflix Co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos acknowledged that some staff had been “left angry, disappointed, and hurt” by the special. But he also defended Chapelle’s artistic freedom.
He added: “With ‘The Closer’, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalising already marginalised groups, hate, violence, etc).
“While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”