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Netflix rides ‘Squid Game’ popularity to better-than-expected sign-ups

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Despite coming under fire recently over the Dave Chappelle comedy special, streaming giant Netflix posted strong gains in subscribers in the third quarter.

It’s ridden the popularity of hit shows “Squid Game” and the latest season of the British teen comedy “Sex Education” to juice new sign-ups.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company said Tuesday that it added 4.4 million new customers in the quarter, more than the 3.5 million expected by analysts. Now, the world’s largest streaming service has a total of 214 million paid subscribers.

In recent months, Netflix said it experienced a slowdown in subscriber growth as the pandemic has waned and people are spending less time at home streaming shows.

But the buzzy “Squid Game” helped turn around that trend. In the company’s shareholder letter Tuesday, co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos credited the South Korean drama as having “pierced the cultural zeitgeist” across the globe, attracting 142 million subscriber households to watch the show in the first four weeks of it hitting the service last month.

The Netflix Inc. website home screen on a laptop computer arranged in the Brooklyn Borough of New York,
Netflix added 4.4 million new customers in the third quarter, bringing its tally to 214 million subscribers.
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The duo did not address the controversy over Chappelle’s latest comedy special, “The Closer,” which was condemned by some employees as being transphobic.

Amid calls to take down the show from its platform, Sarandos defended Netflix’s decision to keep it up, saying the company doesn’t believe the special crossed the line of inciting hate.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday a group of trans employees plan to lead a virtual walkout in protest.

Dave Chappelle.
Comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special “The Closer” has caused a firestorm at Netflix with some employees calling the show transphobic.
Mathieu Bitton/Netflix

Nonetheless, during the quarter, Netflix posted earnings of $1.45 billion, or $3.19 a share, up from $1.74 a share a year ago. Revenue jumped to $7.48 billion, up from $6.44 billion a year ago. Wall Street expected EPS of $2.56 a share on sales of 7.48 billion.

The company said it expects to add 8.5 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, when popular returning shows like “The Witcher,” “You,” “Tiger King” and “Cobra Kai” hit the service.

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