During a Q&A at the International TV Academy this past spring, Netflix’s Head of Global TV Bela Bajaria was asked whether a non-English-language series could one day top the list of the streamer’s most-watched programs. She sounded confident that it could happen. The milestone now might be within reach as the new Korean drama Squid Game is taking Netflix by storm, raking in viewership globally at a rate that might surpass current ratings record holder Bridgerton.
The addictive, violent survival drama, which premiered September 17 on Netflix, has transcended cultures and language barriers to reach No. 1 in 90 countries in 10 days — from Qatar and Oman to Ecuador and Bolivia.
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Fueled by word of mouth, Squid Game entered the U.S. Top 10 list on September 19 at No. 8. It climbed to No. 2 the next day, and hit No. 1 on September 21 — the first Korean original series ever to do so — where it has stayed since, crossing the one-week mark today. Its staying power in the top spot is comparable to such Netflix global hits as Bridgerton, Shadow and Bone, Ginny and Georgia and Who Killed Sara?
Lupin, which earlier this year became the first French series to reach no. 1 in the U.S., currently is tied as Netflix’s second-most-watched original series with 76 million households who watched at least two minutes within the show’s first four weeks of release. Aided by the ever-expanding Netflix subscriber base, Squid Game is on track to surpass that to become the biggest non-English-language Netflix series — and possibly even top Bridgerton’s record 82 million households.
“Squid Game will definitely be our biggest non-English-language show in the world, for sure,” Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos said Monday. “It’s only been out for nine days, and it’s a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever.”
Squid Game also is benefiting from the rising popularity — and acceptance — of non-English-language content among U.S. viewers. Since 2019, non-English-language viewing in the U.S. has grown by 71%, and 97% of Netflix’s US members have chosen to watch at least one non-English-language title in the past year. The ramp-up is even more dramatic for K-dramas, whose US viewership has jumped over 200% between 2019 and 2021.
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