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Netflix execs say they always knew ‘Squid Game’ would be “something special”

Yet they still "couldn't anticipate" the sheer scale of 'Squid Game's success

By Patrick Clarke

A still from 'Squid Game'
(Photo: Netflix)

Netflix was always anticipating that ‘Squid Game’ would be a huge hit, according to a new interview with the streaming service’s head of global TV Bela Bajaria.

“We knew it would be a big regional hit,” Bajaria said. “Our team in Korea always said this would be a big tentpole for us. [Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk] had a very clear vision for this and [they knew] it would do very well in Korea and all through Asia. They knew it was something special.”

She added, however, that the scale of ‘Squid Game”s success still took Netflix by surprise. “We couldn’t imagine or anticipate this because it’s never happened before. It’s so hard to imagine something to this kind of scale,” she said.

‘Squid Game’ secured Netflix’s biggest ever launch when it premiered in September, with leaked internal documents obtained by Bloomberg suggesting that the show has generated $900m in value.

142m households have streamed ‘Squid Game’ which has topped Netflix’s viewing rankings in 94 countries.

A close-up still of the 'Red Light, Grren Light' doll from Netflix's 'Squid Game'
The ‘Red Light, Green Light’ doll from Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’. (Photo: Netflix/Still).

‘Squid Game’ has also made breakthroughs on the Western awards circuit, a rarity for non-English language shows, having won at The Gotham Awards and People’s Choice Awards this year. It is also up for multiple prizes at the Golden Globes and The Critics’ Choice Awards.

Before this year non-English projects have never won or been nominated in a major category at the SAG Awards, Golden Globes or the Primetime Emmys.

“We couldn’t really imagine they would be competing on the U.S. awards with this series,” Bajara said. “But now it’s possible. That is what gets me up in the morning. When we think about excellence in storytelling for the Emmys, to me, the show has all of those things. I love the representation, I love the momentum, the cultural zeitgeist of this show in Korean taking over in the way it did.”

‘Squid Game’ is set to return for a second season next year, according to Hwang. He told reporters last month: “There’s been so much pressure, so much demand, and so much love,” he said. “You leave us no choice!”