Netflix's Squid Game was even bigger than you thought -- 2.1B hours big

Subscribers have watched more than 2.1 billion hours of Squid Game since it was released, according to Netflix. That's the equivalent of about 239,700 years.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
3 min read
Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae screams inside a colorful gaming arcade

Squid Game is Netflix's most popular title yet, by far.

Noh Juhan/Netflix

Netflix already anointed Squid Game as its biggest show ever, but now we know just how big: Netflix subscribers around the world collectively watched 2.1 billion total hours of Squid Game through Sunday, according to the company's new public popularity charts -- the latest stat in a series of head-spinning figures about the dark South Korean show's runaway popularity. 

To put that in context, 2.1 billion hours is the equivalent of more than 239,700 years. Squid Game, at 1.65 billion hours viewed in its first 28 days, was more watched than anything else Netflix has released. The No. 2 most popular title, soapy period drama Bridgerton, has less than half the first-month viewership of Squid Game, at 625 million hours watched.  

Netflix hasn't been shy about how Squid Game unexpectedly skyrocketed in popularity. In late September, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos cautiously noted that Squid Game had "a very good chance" of being the service's biggest program yet. Then in October, Netflix said a "mind-boggling" 142 million accounts sampled at least two minutes of Squid game in that first month -- that's two out of every three Netflix subscribers worldwide. No other Netflix title had previously crossed even the 100 million mark. 

But the popularity figures for Squid Game were released as part of Netflix's unveiling of a new website with a trove of rankings and data for its most watched shows and movies. Netflix is switching the metric it uses to measure the popularity of shows and movies on its service, now counting total hours watched rather than the number of accounts that sample a title. As part of the switch, Netflix launched a new public site that'll publish dozens of popularity rankings, and it's brought on one of the world's big four accounting companies, EY (formerly Ernst & Young), to vet its data and methodology.

Included among the charts is one that lists the most watched shows and movies on Netflix of all time, broken down by English-language titles and those in languages other than English. 

A chart of Netflix's top 10 most popular TV shows in English and non-English languages
A chart of Netflix's top 10 most popular TV shows in English and non-English languages

For years, Netflix was infamous for keeping all viewership details close to the vest. Beau Willimon -- creator of House of Cards, which put Netflix's original programming on the map -- once said the company wouldn't even share viewership metrics with him. 

But within the last two years, Netflix has grown much chattier about the popularity of its shows and movies to help it recruit talent and stoke buzz. Netflix added a top-trending ranking to its service, so people can see the most popular titles streaming on Netflix in their country on any given day. And it started releasing global viewership stats for specific titles regularly. These trickled-out disclosures have resulted in a growing list of its most "popular" shows and movies. 

But until Wednesday, Netflix's previous popularity figures were based on a metric that only Netflix used: how many accounts watched at least two minutes of a title. The two-minute threshold means some titles are counted as being "watched" before the viewer even arrives at the main title sequence, and its audience stats long exasperated parts of the TV industry for being unverified, unsupported and disclosed without much accountability. 

The new rankings site, and bringing on EY as an independent third party to vouch for the numbers, is the most transparency Netflix has yet adopted around its viewership. 

Watch this: 5 ways to get more out of Netflix