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Only one thing can break Squid Game’s Netflix record now

TechRadar logo TechRadar 8/3/2022 Axel Metz
Stranger Things poster and Squid Game image side-by-side © Provided by TechRadar Stranger Things poster and Squid Game image side-by-side

It’s official: Squid Game is still the biggest Netflix series in history. 

Not even the internet-breaking popularity of Stranger Things season 4 – which became the most popular English-language Netflix show of all time and the first to rack up over one billion viewing hours in its first month of release – could dethrone Hwang Dong-hyuk’s dystopian survival drama, whose reign as the series supreme now seems assured for years to come. 

Confirmation of Squid Game’s continued dominance comes after Stranger Things’ 28-day release window – i.e. the period during which Netflix records and publishes viewership figures – elapsed on July 29. All told, season 4 of the Duffer brothers’ beloved sci-fi show accrued 1.4 billion viewing hours, some 250 million shy of Squid Game’s record-setting 1.65 billion.

Naturally, 1.4 billion viewing hours – equivalent to 160,000 years – is still a mind-boggling figure for a series that’s been around for six years. But Stranger Things’ failure to eclipse Squid Game’s record serves to further highlight the magnitude of the latter’s achievement. 

For starters, Stranger Things got two bites of the cherry with its fourth season. Split into two parts – episodes 1-7 and 8-9 – the show enjoyed a rare 56-day window for racking up total viewership figures, versus Squid Game’s standard 28-day window. Granted, viewership of volume 1 no longer contributed to the series’ total after June 24, but volume 2 picked up the baton on July 1 and kept running until July 29.

What’s more, Stranger Things’ extended release window was also buoyed by a much longer runtime than Squid Game. The latter’s nine episodes totaled approximately eight hours, while the former’s nine episodes totaled an almighty 13 hours (courtesy of two eye-wateringly lengthy final entries). 

Essentially, then, your watching the entirety of Stranger Things season 4 would have contributed more to its overall viewing total than completing an equivalent binge of Squid Game. Unfair, right? 

And yet, Squid Game remains the biggest Netflix show of all time – which begs the question: will anything topple the South Korean phenomenon?

A familiar foe  

For our money, the only threat to Squid Game’s dominance of Netflix in the immediate future is… Squid Game. Or more specifically, Squid Game season 2

“But what about Stranger Things season 5?” we hear you cry. Yes, the series’ fifth and final instalment is more-than-likely to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor by entering the Netflix billionaire’s club – but Squid Game’s almighty record may yet remain elusive. 

Consider just how popular Stranger Things season 4 became. The show had the internet – and the global music charts – in its grip for months on end. The likes of Vecna, Steve and Max were the subject of watercooler conversations the world over. Heck, Stranger Things made the return of the galaxy’s most famous Jedi look like a Friends rerun

And it still couldn't topple Hwang Dong-hyuk’s survival series. It’s also important to note that Stranger Things season 4 wasn’t universally praised by audiences in quite the same way as the show’s previous entries. Some fans were left frustrated by this season's overly long runtime and the Duffer brothers’ reluctance to kill off major characters, suggesting there may be a small drop-off in viewership for season 5. 

So, despite Stranger Things’ enduring popularity, we don’t think its fifth and final season – nor any other Netflix movie or TV series, for that matter – will come close to Squid Game’s success. If that 1.65 billion-hour record is ever going to be broken, the honor will belong to Squid Game season 2.

Incidentally, no release date has been set for Squid Game’s return just yet, but the show’s creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, has teased a 2024 release following the completion of a new movie he’s working on right now. Stay tuned to our Squid Game season 2 hub for all the latest news on its highly-anticipated arrival. 

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