Sarah wrote yesterday about Netflix’s virtual fan event, Tudum, that took place over the weekend. Her coverage will continue today with pieces on Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction sequel and more. As she noted in her Bridgerton post, the season two preview was one of the biggest highlights to come out of Tudum. Speaking of Bridgerton and Extraction though, Netflix’s co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was featured at Vox’s Code Conference in Beverly Hills yesterday and confirmed that Bridgerton is the “most initially watched and most engaged with series” and that Extraction “was the most watched film” on Netflix. And he backed it up with stats – which is noteworthy because Netflix is famously vague about viewership information, whatever their equivalent is of the traditional “ratings” game.
“For a subscription business, engagement really matters,” Sarandos said in unveiling the metrics, which included not a single licensed series or film. “This is a real indicator of value,” he added with no small amount of glee.
Netflix’s original content then is what drives subscription and retains viewers, which means that all those big deals that Netflix has made with content creators like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy etc have come through almost immediately. In Shonda’s case, Bridgerton has already ensured that her deal was a smart investment. And remember, as Shonda shared last year with The Hollywood Reporter, she left ABC (parent company Disney) in 2017 after 15 years with the network to go to Netflix because they were trying to nickel and dime her on the negotiations. Bridgerton was released in December 2020. In other words, it took only three years for Shonda’s reported $100 million deal to pay off. Which is why Netflix and Shonda extended and expanded their partnership this past summer.
You know what’s interesting though? While Ted Sarandos’s revelations at Code Conference have made top headlines in western entertainment, specifically related to Bridgerton being its most successful series, there’s another series that could actually overtake Bridgerton that’s not getting as much attention. And it only just premiered on Netflix less than two weeks ago.
“Squid Game will definitely be our biggest non-English language show in the world, for sure,” Sarandos said. “There’s “a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever,” he added, and then explained that, “We did not see that coming, in terms of its global popularity”.
Squid Game is a Korean scripted high concept survival drama that is currently the #1 show on Netflix in the United States. Have you heard of it? I have because I watch so many Korean and Chinese dramas on Netflix it comes up in my algorithm, alongside Bridgerton. For most Bridgerton viewers though, that may not be the case. If even Ted Sarandos and the Netflix team were surprised by Squid Game’s popularity, given that they built the algorithm, chances are Squid Game isn’t popping up for western subscribers… and it’s STILL the #1 show.
So as innovative as Netflix has been, investing as much as $500 million in South Korean content, and more across East Asia, with their East Asian library driving up international subscriptions, even Ted Sarandos and his team myopically assumed that that investment was only for subscribers in those territories and not appealing to any and all viewers, no matter their first language. The trickle-down effect of that is how a show like Squid Game has been covered in western media. If there was an English-language series generating the same numbers, we’d be hearing about it all the time.
Netflix’s investment in western creatives, for sure, is critical to its unprecedented success. But they aren’t the only superstars responsible for making Netflix what it is. It only seems that way through a western lens.
For more on Ted Sarandos at Code Conference including Netflix’s future plans and his thoughts on other streaming services trying to match their success, click here.
Yours in gossip,