Netflix has Squid Game merch in its own online store now, because of course
Squid Game is an unexpected global hit, and its popularity overlaps Netflix's recent initiative to sell $35 T-shirts and $50 hoodies.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer 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.
ExpertiseStreaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation onlineCredentials
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)
Sometime on Monday, Netflix quietly bulked up its nascent online shop with $35 T-shirts and $50 hoodies related to Squid Game, an intersection of the company's fledging e-commerce strategy with its latest unexpected hit. The show, which Netflix contends may become its most popular original series yet, is a breakout Korean drama series about a survival competition.
It's also just the kind of phenomenon that Netflix designed its store to merchandise.
Netflix launched its own online store in June, picking up a classic profit strategy that legacy entertainment companies like Disney have perfected. Netflix was no stranger to merchandising before that, having struck deals with giant retailers like Walmart and Target as well as more-targeted companies like Sephora and Fisher-Price, all to make or sell items related to its movies and shows. But this summer, Netflix unveiled its own direct-sales e-commerce venture. Using Shopify, Netflix fashioned an online boutique for limited-edition items with the posturing of drop culture.
Squid Game is the textbook example of an unexpected hit, maybe more than any other series that Netflix has identified as being wildly popular on its service. The show isn't based on any existing franchise, unlike Netflix's most recent "biggest series ever," Bridgerton (originally a book series), or the one before that, The Witcher (a video game). It's also the first time a Korean language original by Netflix has broken out from its local market to purportedly unprecedented popularity around the world. Other non-English-language Netflix originals have been popular outside their local markets before, such as Money Heist and Lupin. But Squid Game appears to be on a different scale.
Last week, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said Squid Game was "No. 1 in the world -- like, everywhere in the world." Netflix's data about the popularity of its programs is sometimes criticized for being unverified, unsupported and disclosed without much accountability. But Google search-interest trends lately for Squid Game in English language markets like the US, the UK and Canada are sometimes greater in volume than searches for Netflix itself -- and much higher than the volume of searches for Bridgerton at its peak.
For now Squid Game's global popularity won't be matched by Netflix directly merchandising it globally: Netflix's online store ships to US addresses only.
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