What does the success of “Squid Game” tell us about the future of entertainment?

What does the success of “Squid Game” tell us about the future of entertainment?
A giant doll named ‘Younghee’ from Netflix series ‘Squid Game’ is on display at a park in Seoul, South Korea, October 26, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The South Korean drama is Netflix’s most-watched show ever, and it isn’t even in English.

What’s the deal with “Squid Game?”

  • Regardless of whether you’ve seen Netflix’s hit “Squid Game,” you’ve definitely seen it across your social media.
  • The South Korean drama is Netflix Inc’s most-watched show ever, and it isn’t even in English.
  • This is particularly significant because over 50% of Netflix’s subscribers live in countries where English is the primary language.
  • And “Squid Game” isn’t the streaming platform’s first international hit either. “Money Heist,” a Spanish show, is now in its third season, and “Lupin,” a French thriller, has also brought international attention.
  • In fact, according to Netflix, 97% of American subscribers watched a non-English title in the past year.

Why are non-English titles gaining popularity?

  • Dawn’s Light Media is a film production company founded in 2014, which produces, finances and conceptualizes shows for streamers like Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Netflix. According to Jason Cherubini, the company’s co-founder, there are a few reasons that non-English titles are becoming increasingly popular.
  • First, a globalized audience means that “companies such as Netflix are no longer only primarily targeting American-based and English speaking viewers,” said Cherubini. This means that streaming companies can try content out in more regionalized settings before bringing it to the world audience.
  • “When a show or film does exceptionally well in a given market, it can then be brought to the US and English speaking market,” he said. This makes it so that smaller investments globally can weed out any bad investments on the world stage.
  • Second, the streaming business model means that people can watch a show on their own schedule. “This means that shows are no longer competing for the same time slots and limited air space,” said Cherubini.
  • “Streaming services can now provide more variety without having to limit their showings to only the content that will be most popular,” he said.
  • Third, “With a shift toward streaming services, audiences have been finding and devouring niche content that specifically targets their interests as well as trying new types of content.” A driving force of this was the pandemic, which “pushed many people to try new types of shows and features that they wouldn’t have attempted before.”

Who’s driving this popularity?

  • If we look back at “Squid Game,” we can see some of the patterns mentioned by Cherubini playing out.
  • A Morning Consult poll on October 11 found that roughly one in four Americans have watched “Squid Game,” a number that has probably grown since then. So it’s likely that there isn’t one single group of people driving this international growth.
  • But the poll also found that younger audiences were more likely to watch the show with subtitles rather than dubbing.
  • While this may not seem like a big deal, dubbing has been criticized a lot for being inaccurate and problematic to storylines, so an audience willing to watch with subtitles suggests an audience who is looking to appreciate the show’s authenticity.

What’s next for the industry?

  • According to Cherubini, this international diversification on streaming platforms will not kill off traditional Hollywood blockbusters entirely.
  • “I do not believe this will drastically affect the large studios putting out tentpole blockbusters,” he said, adding that it “will open up new areas of entertainment to the US (and English speaking) market.”
  • He also said that the trend of more international titles will continue, saying, “As the casual viewer becomes more accepting of these nontraditional content creators, there will be an increased demand for these offerings.”
  • But this change isn’t going to happen in a straight line, nor will it come without some penalties, too, he said.
  • “This increased acceptance and demand will most likely be a double-edged sword; on one hand the increased acceptance lowers the barriers to getting viewers to accept independent and foreign production. But on the other hand, an increase in the amount of independent and foreign productions will make it harder for an individual project to stand out among the crowd.”

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