‘Squid Game’ has been watched by two-thirds of all Netflix users but hasn’t moved the needle on U.S. subscribers


Scene from “Squid Game” by Netflix
Source: Netflix

It may seem like every American you know has watched “Squid Game,” but the show’s popularity has not yet created a surge of new Netflix subscribers in the U.S.

142 million Netflix subscribers have seen at least two minutes of the wildly popular South Korean drama, Netflix revealed in its shareholder letter Tuesday. That’s exactly two-thirds of the company’s 213 million global customers.

But while Netflix gained 4.4 million net subscribers in the third quarter, topping average analyst estimates of 3.5 million, the growth didn’t come from the U.S. or Canada. Netflix added just 70,000 users from the region in the quarter.

While it’s possible Netflix may have added more American or Canadian subscribers from “Squid Game” in the fourth quarter, which began Oct. 1, the company didn’t alter its preexisting 8.5 million global forecast for the period.

It’s becoming clear that Netflix’s growth has stalled in the U.S. and Canada. Netflix has added less than one million subscribers in the region in the past 12 months. That’s part of the reason why Netflix is beginning to dabble in video games. It will be interesting to see if Netflix does anything surprising in the coming months to jumpstart growth in the U.S. and Canada, or if it’s content with its growth plateau in the region as long as it’s still charging ahead internationally.

The company’s 74 million U.S. and Canada subscribers also serves a de facto ceiling for Netflix’s streaming competition. Netflix still dominates Disney+, Hulu, AT&T‘s HBO Max, NBCUniversal‘s Peacock and other, newer streaming services in terms of overall subscribers. Cowen & Co. published survey results earlier this month in a note to clients that showed 25% of respondents said they used Netflix more than any other video service — including standard cable and broadcast TV. That dwarfed other subscription streaming services. Amazon Prime Video was the next highest at 7.3%.

If “Squid Game” can’t bring in millions of new subscribers, it’s fair to wonder if any new content can truly move the needle in the region.

Disclosure: Comcast’s NBCUniversal is the parent company of both CNBC and the Peacock streaming service.

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