Groundbreaking Korean series “Squid Game” has brought in eyeballs and repeat viewership for streaming giant Netflix—but at the cost of what?
In a Los Angeles Times article detailing the exploitation felt by South Korean writers and prod crews too in the midst of the Hollywood writers’ strike, the author writes that South Korean writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk—the creator of one of Netflix’s more popular original K-dramas, did not earn as much as the streaming giant did.
The “Squid Game” creator was said to have “forfeited all intellectual property rights and received no residuals” following the success of the series—as stated in his contract with Netflix. In October 2021, The Guardian asked Hwang if he had become rich after the international success of his brainchild “Squid Game”.
He said, “I’m not rich. But I do have enough. I have enough to put food on the table. And it’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus. Netflix paid me according to the original contract.” Hwang also detailed his hard past and beginnings, where he shared his experiences following the Financial Crisis of 2009 and had been trying to sell “Squid Game” for a decade.
Basically, “Squid Game” is no longer Hwang Dong-hyuk’s—it’s now owned by Netflix.
Netflix earned an estimated $900 million from the success of “Squid Game”, as shown by the streaming platform’s internal documents, with each episode costing only around $2.4 million per episode.
In April of this year, Netflix revealed that they will invest $2.5 billion in South Korea over the next four years in creating and producing new Korean content.
The report from The Los Angeles Times is deemed as timely, as there are ongoing strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) where film and TV productions have been in limbo. One of the reasons for the strikes is the discussion of being given royalties at a time when streaming has become the preferred method of consuming media.
WGA East and WGA West have since responded to The Los Angeles Times article that highlighted Hwang Dong-hyuk’s situation with residuals and royalties.
— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) June 28, 2023
— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) June 28, 2023
It has been reported that television and film writers, on strike over the “existential crisis” of a Hollywood dream factory that mistreats the source of its stories, are fed up with seeing their profession become more precarious in the age of streaming. The strike, which primarily calls for the industry to introduce better pay and working conditions for screenwriters, also demands for an increase and standardization of compensation and residual terms, an increase of contributions to the Pension Plan and Health Fund, and regulation of the use of AI-produced materials, among other things.
Shows like NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver are among the shows that have been shut down because of the strike.
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