5 Reasons Why ‘Squid Game’ Is Hollywood’s Biggest Story Of The Year

Seemingly out of nowhere, Squid Game (a South Korean-produced dystopian/thriller series) captured the world’s attention and confirmed what Netflix NFLX and others have been predicting for years: to be successful, entertainment companies must be globally-focused.

Matt Belloni from Puck describes it powerfully: “You don’t need me to tell you that ‘Squid Game’ was the biggest piece of professionally-created entertainment this year. Those staggering numbers—sampled by 142 million accounts in 90 countries (and finished by 87 million of them) in its first 23 days; 1.5 billion hours viewed in its first 28 days; the kind of global fandom usually reserved for soccer stars and Avengers movies—speak for themselves. The nine-episode, South Korean sci-fi thriller that Netflix bought for $22 million has created what (some estimate) to be $900 million in value.”

It seems almost quaint to ponder it now, but it wasn’t long ago that Hollywood’s major studios relied nearly exclusively on super-hero properties controlled by Marvel and DC comics, or popular Y.A. novels, to appeal to audiences around the world.

Spider Man: No Way Home proves that formula still works stupendously well, having crossed the $1 billion box-office market in less than 10 days. Comic books and popular fiction are important parts of any globally-competitive entertainment portfolio, but the future resides in foreign-based content with international appeal.

While there are many lessons to gain from Squid Game’s success, here are five that are likely etched on any entertainment executive’s wall who seeks to keep her job in 2022:

1.      The U.S. Streaming Market Is Saturated — before Squid Game roared into our consciousness this past September, Netflix and Disney+ both announced stalled-out streaming growth in the United States. Since Squid Game’s arrival, Netflix has regained its growth trajectory. To remain relevant worldwide as a streamer, diverse, foreign content must be the priority

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2.      Movies are great, but episodic content is streaming’s futureSquid Game’s appeal crossed borders primarily because its premise (a “what if” Hunger Games-like “fight to the death” competition) could be understood worldwide and was utterly satisfying across 9 episodes, versus a stand-alone, two-hour experience.

3.      Trust Your International Partners – legend has it that Netflix’s South Korean office was utterly confident that the show wouldn’t just be a hit locally, but that it had international “legs.” Without the cheer-leading and, as importantly, the data that Netflix’s South Korean executives provided, showing just how addictive Squid Game could be, there’s no chance that the decision-makers at Netflix’s U.S. base would’ve made Squid Game its key marketing/promotion priority worldwide

4.       Don’t Fear Subtitles or Dubbing – it wasn’t long ago that content buyers believed that global hits must be successful in English-language territories first. A “western” bias pervaded traditional content markets as traditional as Cannes and as new as SXSW. Squid Game proves that the language of origin doesn’t matter; the idea and storytelling are all that really count

5.      Excellence Matters but Genre is the Force Multiplier – Successful foreign-based content is nothing new to Hollywood executives. One need only look to recent Oscar winners like Parasite and Roma to see that auteur-driven material has long been embraced by studio executives in the U.S. and abroad. What makes Squid Game a “game-changer” (pun intended) is that Neflix’s South Korean team supported an up-and-coming genius filmmaker — Hwang Dong-hyuk — paired with an exquisitely designed, genre-based concept. In the past, the only foreign filmmakers  and storytellers that Hollywood rallied around were those making more “artistic”, character-driven content. Hollywood executives now appreciate the broader lesson: yes, back excellence, but marry it with popular genre narratives, and the entire world will rally around it.

Squid Game proved not only to be the biggest surprise hit of 2021, but a refreshing reminder that great content not only exists, but is thriving beyond America’s borders.

For those U.S.-based filmmakers and storytellers who may be afraid that their material will now pale in comparison to thrilling product being produced elsewhere, I’d say: good, you should be on alert. Great ideas can and will spring up anywhere and local, American talent no longer has the advantage.

Shows like Squid Game will inevitably push American creators to improve and excel, and they likely will.

If not, they’ll suffer the fate that the competitors in Squid Game did…and if you had the stomach to watch that series, you wouldn’t wish that kind of failure on anyone!

The Tycoon Herald