‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Is So Huge It Returned ‘Squid Game’ Itself to Netflix’s Top 10

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Turns out, it wasn’t much of a challenge at all.

“Squid Game: The Challenge” dominated Netflix’s overall leaderboard in its debut week, when it drew 20.1 million views. The unscripted competition series picked up where the I.P. left off in 2021, bumping Part 1 of “The Crown’s” sixth season to second place (8.8 million views) for the week of November 20, 2023.

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“Squid Game: The Challenge,” filmed in the UK, is an English-language series; OG “Squid Game” was a Korean-language series dubbed into local languages. As such, the scripted show technically rests atop Netflix’s “Non-English” list, though it blows away all the English-language stuff anyway.

“The Challenge” was so big it brought “Squid Game” back to the Global Top 10 for non-english series — at no. 6 with 1.6 million views — its 21st appearance. The scripted show hadn’t made the list since the week ending June 19, 2022. The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend sure helped the streams pile up.

“Squid Game: The Challenge” premiered the first five of its 10 episodes on November 22 — it’s what Netflix is referring to as “Batch 1.” The next four episodes, “Batch 2,” bow on Wednesday, November 29. The final episode, a “Batch” in and of itself, debuts on Wednesday, December 6. That’s when we’ll finally find out who won the $4.56 million dollars.

“But IndieWire,” you’re probably wondering, “doesn’t Netflix drop all of its episodes at once?” That’s the streamer’s default, sure, but not this time — and there is precedent. Netflix stretched out fellow competitions “Love Is Blind,” “The Circle,” and “Rhythm & Flow” in much the same way. It’s an effort to reduce spoilers, build momentum, and generally establish a fan community from scratch, a person with knowledge of Netflix’s thinking told IndieWire. It puts everyone on the same timeline — you know, kind of like linear TV!

“Squid Game” the narrative series remains Netflix’s most-watched show ever — and by a landslide. Season 1 of the scripted Korean drama packed together more than 2.2 billion hours viewed within its first 91 days, or 265.2 million “views.” The only other shows to have reached — or passed — 1 billion hours viewed are English-language series “Stranger Things 4” (1.8 billion), “Wednesday: Season 1” (1.7 billion), and “Dahmer” (1 billion). (With about half the total runtime of “Stranger Things” Season 4, “Wednesday” actually has more views: 252.1 million vs. 140.7 million.)

The closest foreign-language series to “Squid Game” is “Money Heist: Part 4,” which tallied 710.2 million hours viewed, or 106 million views. Netflix used to rank its all-time “Most Popular” content by hours viewed across a show or film’s first 28 days of availability. Now the hierarchy favors “views” (hours viewed divided by runtime) and includes 91 days — about three months or one quarter of a year — of streaming. “Squid Game: The Challenge” had the most views in one week since Netflix began calculating views in mid-June 2023.

There are currently no unscripted shows on Netflix’s all-time Top 10. That’s in large part due to the far greater rewatch-ability of scripted series. To crack the all-time English-language shows, a series would have to bump “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” (81.3 million views on 526.8 million hours viewed) to 11th place.

"The Crown" Season 6
Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) in “The Crown” Season 6Courtesy of Netflix

Below is the full set of Netflix’s Top 10 lists for the week of November 20. Shoutout to Adam Sandler’s adorable film “Leo,” which had the biggest debut ever for a Netflix animated movie (34.6 million views in its first six days).

English Films Top 10

  1. “Leo”

  2. “Best. Christmas. Ever!”

  3. “The Killer”

  4. “See You on Venus”

  5. “Jules”

  6. “Triple Frontier”

  7. “The Christmas Chronicles”

  8. “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch”

  9. “Lone Survivor”

  10. “Falling for Christmas”

English TV Top 10

  1. “Squid Game: The Challenge: Season 1”

  2. “The Crown: Season 6”

  3. “CoComelon Lane: Season 1”

  4. “All the Light We Cannot See: Limited Series”

  5. “Matt Rife: Natural Selection”

  6. “Young Sheldon: Season 1”

  7. “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off: Season 1”

  8. “First Wives Club: Season 1”

  9. “Escaping Twin Flames: Season 1”

  10. “Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and The Pool”

Non-English Films

  1. “Last Call for Istanbul”

  2. “Believer 2”

  3. “All-Time High”

  4. “Crime Diaries: The Celebrity Stylist”

  5. “Sukhee”

  6. “Ilary Blasi: The One and Only”

  7. “Wingwomen”

  8. “Jawan: Extended Cut”

  9. “Elena Knows”

  10. “The Queenstown Kings”

 Non-English TV

  1. “A Nearly Normal Family: Limited Series”

  2. “Criminal Code: Season 1”

  3. “The Railway Men – The Untold Story Of Bhopal 1984: Limited Series”

  4. “My Demon: Season 1”

  5. “Nothing to See Here: Season 1”

  6. “Squid Game: Season 1”

  7. “Castaway Diva: Season 1”

  8. “Strong Girl Nam-soon: Season 1”

  9. “Holy Family: Season 2”

  10. “Suburræterna: Season 1”

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