Despite its recent subscription struggles, Netflix has once again made history. Its hit series Squid Game is the first non-english television series to be nominated for an Emmy. As usual in the past few years, HBO came out on top. It had with 140 nominations. Netflix came in second with 105.
However, the South Korean drama’s ground-breaking success shows that Netflix’s multi-year strategy of investing heavily in subtitled and dubbed productions like Lupin (French), Dark (German), and Money Heist (Spanish) is working. In 2021, Netflix spent roughly $17 billion (pdf) on content, with $5.2 billion of that devoted to developing original content, including region-specific television series in countries like South Korea, Japan, Spain, and Latin America.
That unwavering focus on original international content has been a differentiator for it as newer streaming competitors squeeze the multi-subscription service tolerance of users.
The Television Academy’s nearly 20,000 Emmy voters don’t seem to care about viewership and ratings. For example, even though the beautifully crafted Yellowstone had some of the best ratings and viewership last year, the family drama received no Emmy nominations. Compare that to another drama about a powerful family dynasty, Succession, which received the most nominations of any show despite low viewership.
Squid Game scoring big in both viewership, and critical acclaim, all while hailing from a different country and written in another language shows Netflix has identified a new, largely untapped vein in US streaming. Although it’s possible that Squid Game’s Emmy nod as a foreign series will be an outlier moving forward, Netflix’s early bet on productions in other languages has paid off.
This latest accolade—whether the show wins the award or not—will likely fuel even more investment in shows for the streamer’s international interests. The Emmys are awarded Sept. 12 on NBC.