Netflix Co-CEOs Reed Hastings, who was wearing a Squid Game-themed tracksuit, and Ted Sarandos both discussed the success of the dystopian Korean drama series and pointed out that neither of them expected it to be such a hit.
Hastings said that it was commissioned on a local level, from a team led by regional content chief Minyoung Kim, and applauded his partner Sarandos for building a system that can do that.
He said that the next breakout hit was probably similarly going to come from somewhere unexpected. “There’s got to be other amazing ones like that that even Ted or I don’t yet know about that are digesting in the Netflix content engine,” he said.
Sarandos added that his team picked it up a couple of years ago, after writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk had been trying to make it for around ten years, and the Korean team thought it would be a local success. “They thought it’d be one of their biggest titles this year. I can’t say we had the same eyeball on it to tell you that it’d be our biggest title in our history around the world,” he added. “How something can go viral is really hard to predict but it’s super powerful when it happens. The show has to deliver the goods to deliver that much viewing and to have people talking about it, in such shorthand that it can be spoofed on SNL. It’s hard to predict, sometimes you think you’ve got lightning in a bottle and you’re wrong and sometimes you’ve got a great Korean show that turns out to be lightning in a bottle for the world.”
Sarandos wasn’t asked whether there were any firm plans for a second season, although Dong-hyuk has talked up his interest in writing another story.
Similarly, the Netflix execs weren’t asked on the investor call about the recent controversy surrounding Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up special.