Almost exactly two years ago, Netflix released Squid Game, the South Korean dystopian drama that temporarily took over social media. The Squid Game moment – and it was a moment, pervasive and fleeting – was an outsized version of the Netflix binge formula that, by late 2021 and especially after the mass couch event that was Covid, was so well-worn as to feel like clockwork. A show hits the streaming service all at once (in this case, nine episodes released worldwide on 17 September); it gains momentum online in memes, commentary and fan videos as part of an attention wildfire (142m households reportedly watched the show within a month); Netflix announces related projects building on the hype; the moment gives way to the next topic of the day and is consigned to the vast heap of viral internet history.
One could argue that Squid Game was the apotheosis and the denouement of the binge model – a massive phenomenon that, because it was available all at once, at people’s leisure, burned out quickly (see: Bridgerton, The Queen’s Gambit, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and more). Since then, the model that defined its platform also seems headed for the dustbin; Netflix, which has very publicly faced subscriber and financial challenges in the past few years, is reportedly considering releasing Squid Game: The Challenge, the competition show spinoff of the series, in batches rather than all at once.