In the hit series Squid Game, people in debt take part in secret deadly games to win big prize money. Popular South Korean children’s games like “Red Light, Green Light” turn into fights in which participants are shot in rows or killed in other brutal ways. It’s about those who are driven by capitalism in South Korea who, like the main character Seong Gi-hun, simply don’t know how to help themselves.
Now the streaming service has announced that it will continue the fictional series as a reality game show. 456 candidates from all over the world are to compete against each other in the – safe – games of “Squid Game: The Challenge” and the prize money is 4.56 million US dollars.
A series critical of capitalism is further exploited as a game show. This satirical decision by Netflix is to be understood in view of the gigantic success of the series and against the background of a tense economic situation for the streaming service.
With the fourth season of the nostalgic science fiction series “Stranger Things”, the streaming service recently had the most successful series or season start of an English-language series. With 781 million streaming hours within the first 28 days, “Stranger Things” is not even half the value of “Squid Game”. Netflix gives 1.6 billion hours for the first season (which is shorter than the fourth season “Stranger Things”). “Squid Game” was a global phenomenon, a surprise hit that few in the industry expected.
It can be assumed that the streaming service has been working feverishly on a continuation of this success for months. Successful series are figureheads that streaming services and TV broadcasters urgently need in order to stand out from the competition – especially in times of an inflationary large series overall production, in which even TV journalists can no longer keep up with watching all the restarts.
A second season of “Squid Game” is coming, but according to series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk, it could be a long time coming until autumn 2024. In remarkably open words, the South Korean director and screenwriter had previously admitted to the industry magazine “Variety” how exhausting the year-long work process on the first season was – and at least as of September 2021 he had no finalized plans for the next season. It’s quite possible that Netflix came up with the idea of the reality game show that could fill the gap.
Successful formats such as “Squid Game” promise new subscriptions and encourage customers to continue their existing membership. This has recently been a problem for Netflix, which reported 221.64 million subscriptions at the end of the first quarter of this year. Around 200,000 paid subscriptions were lost by the end of March 2022. For the first time since 2011, the number of users fell and as a result the share plummeted, as investors had relied on continuous subscription growth and were disappointed by the latest quarterly report.
Worse still, Netflix forecast a further drop in subscriptions of around two million for the second quarter. Even so, Netflix would remain the largest streaming service and well ahead of its major competitor Disney (137.7 million subscriptions worldwide in the second quarter of 2022). Nevertheless, the Netflix share has lost almost 69 percent since the beginning of the year with its current value of 161 euros. The stock market is putting Netflix under massive pressure. The inclusion of advertising, which was taboo for years, is now being planned – and the hit “Squid Game” is being expanded into a franchise that will soon even include a reality game show.