Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Boosts Viewing of Japanese Dystopian Series ‘Alice in Borderland’

The Japanese death game series “Alice in Borderland” had already been a hit for netflix. But, with the worldwide crossover triumph of the dystopian South Korean show “Squid Game”, the streaming giant has seized the opportunity to make “Alice” a hit again.

Company executives gave attendees an under-the-hood look at its algorithms and recommendation strategies at a seminar on Tuesday at TIFFCOMthe rights market attached to the Tokyo International Film Festival.

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Sakamoto Kaata, vice president of Japanese content, said the company is looking for projects with the “3 Cs” of “content, choice and conversation.” These shows can be enjoyed anywhere and are expected to generate positive word-of-mouth, with “social media being the primary source of interaction,” Sakamoto explained.

Tokyo-based Netflix product innovation director Michael Smith said the company aims to personalize the viewing experience for each member. He cited “Alice” as an example. The 2020 sci-fi action series, set in an abandoned Tokyo where recruited players compete in games of life or death, is based on a hit comic book and is directed by the action specialist Sato Shinsuke. It launched on December 10, 2020, and reached Netflix’s top 10 in nearly 40 countries and territories.

“We customized the images and video artwork [of ‘Alice’] we used for every member,” Smith said, in addition to dubbing and subtitling the show in over 30 languages. “Some members have seen it under ‘Japanese TV Shows’, some have discovered it under ‘Manga Based TV Shows’ and some have seen it featured under ‘Suspenseful TV Thrillers’,” said Smith.

After “Squid Game” launched in September 2021, Netflix cross-promoted “Alice.” “Squid Game” has an equally fatal premise and action-packed storyline.

“We were thrilled to see that many of the members who discovered and watched ‘Squid Game’ also started discovering ‘Alice’ for the first time,” Smith said. “Our service understood that connection and started recommending ‘Alice’ to more members who hadn’t seen the show yet.”

The result was what Smith describes as a “tremendous increase in global viewing” for “Alice.” “It has returned to the top 10 series charts in more than fifty countries around the world, more than nine months after its initial launch,” he said.

But sometimes, shows can defy algorithms and break out in unexpected ways.

Smith admitted that the international success of the Korean romantic drama series “Crash Landing on You” came as a surprise. The show, about a female business executive who is taken in by a North Korean man after crossing the border in a hang-gliding accident, aired on Netflix from December 2019. It became an international hit even without pre-launch marketing.

“It also shows that, even without an official marketing campaign or an existing built-in audience, movies and series can become huge hits here in Asia and all over the world,” Smith said.

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Marie A. Evans