Netflix's Squid Game is its biggest original ever (at least, according to Netflix)

Netflix said the dark Korean series was sampled by 111 million accounts, which would make it Netflix's most-viewed original program ever -- show or movie.

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3 min read

Squid Game, a Korean survival-competition drama series, has been wildly popular around the world. 

Netflix/Youngkyu Park

Netflix's Squid Game, the dark Korean series about desperate people battling each other to survive a deadly competition of children's games, is officially the most-viewed original the streaming service has ever released -- series or movie. (At least, according to Netflix it is). In a tweet Tuesday, Netflix said Squid Game has been viewed by 111 million accounts, putting the breakout series easily at the top of its own rankings of Netflix's most popular shows and films

Netflix had already tipped its hand that Squid Game was breaking its records: Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in late September that it had a "very good chance" of becoming Netflix's biggest show ever, claiming the series was the service's "No. 1 in the world, like everywhere in the world" on the service. 

But Netflix's popularity figures always need disclaimers. 

To start, Netflix counts a show or movie as viewed after two minutes. That's a much more generous standard than, for example, Nielsen uses to gauge the audience of shows on regular TV. Netflix's two-minute threshold means some titles are counted as being "watched" before the viewer even hits the main title sequence. That's the case in Squid Game: The first two minutes are entirely a black-and-white flashback with voiceover -- viewers haven't even clapped eyes on the lead actors yet. 

For this reason, some people in the industry refer to Netflix's metric as a tally of how many accounts have "sampled" a Netflix title, rather than "watched" it.

Netflix's stats also aren't independently verified, nor are they backed up by detailed data from the company, putting Netflix in the position to cherry-pick highlights without much transparency. Traditional media companies report their box office performance and it's independently monitored, and they're at the mercy of third parties like Nielsen as the barometer for TV shows.

On top of that, Netflix gets its projections wrong sometimes -- and this Squid Game number is either a preliminary figure or a projection. Typically, Netflix reports viewerership for its titles within the first 28 days of release, but Squid Game hasn't been out that long yet. (Netflix is likely to provide the final Squid Game audience tally on Tuesday when it reports its quarterly earnings.)

Finally, as Netflix grows bigger, so do its shows and movies. Netflix is the biggest subscription streaming service of its kind in the world, with 209 million global members as of the end of June (it will release its latest subscriber numbers Tuesday). By growing its subscriber base globally, Netflix biggest titles each year tend to be bigger than the ones that came before. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about viewership. The creator of House of Cards, which put Netflix's original content efforts 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 recruit talent and stoke buzz for its originals. But Netflix's audience stats have exasperated parts of the TV industry for being unverified, unsupported and disclosed without much accountability. 

At 111 million accounts, Squid Game's reach widely trumps Netflix's previously most watched series, soapy period romance Bridgerton at 82 million accounts. 

But Squid Game also beats a host of hit movies on Netflix too, which are usually where Netflix puts up its biggest sampling numbers. Extraction, an action movie starring Chris Hemsworth, was previously Netflix's top original title by reaching 99 million accounts.

Nothing on Netflix had ever crossed the 100 million account milestone, until Squid Game. 

See Netflix's full popularity rankings to compare how all Netflix's big titles stack up.

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