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The streamer announced a reality TV production based on its global dystopian smash at the Banff World Media Festival on Tuesday.
While the stakes won’t be life or death (presumably), Squid Game: The Challenge will have 456 players competing in a series of games for the chance to win $4.56 million. Netflix claims the payout is the largest lump-sum cash prize in TV history (though Fox’s X Factor has previously given out recording contracts worth $5 million), and that the show likewise also sports the largest competition series cast ever assembled.
“Squid Game took the world by storm with [director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s] captivating story and iconic imagery,” said Brandon Riegg, Netflix vp unscripted and documentary series. “We’re grateful for his support as we turn the fictional world into reality in this massive competition and social experiment. Fans of the drama series are in for a fascinating and unpredictable journey as our 456 real-world contestants navigate the biggest competition series ever, full of tension and twists, with the biggest-ever cash prize at the end.”
The announcement was made at the festival by the streamer’s head of global TV, Bela Bajaria, during a panel moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director, Nekesa Mumbi Moody.
The reality competition will consist of 10 episodes (one more than the first season of the dramatic series) and also released a teaser video:
The announcement comes on the heels of Netflix officially renewing Squid Game for a second season. The South Korean survival drama’s debut season was released in September and holds the record as Netflix’s most popular series of all time, racking up more than 1.65 billion view hours in its first 28 days. The recently released fourth season of Stranger Things is ranking as the streamer’s second most watched.
The idea to make a reality version of Squid Game is perhaps a no-brainer, and was obvious enough for somebody to have already done it: YouTube star MrBeast produced an unofficial Squid Game competition that’s racked up more than 250 million views since it was released in November. The 25-minute video received praise from Hwang, (“I watched some of it, I loved it, it helps me to promote the show,” he said), while Netflix has not commented on it.
Casting for Squid Game: The Challenge is now open for applications at SquidGameCasting.com. Netflix is seeking contestants from around the world, but they must be English-speaking — a perhaps controversial mandate given that the original series was almost entirely in Korean. The language rule is a pragmatic one, as gameplay directions are given over a speaker and every player needs to be able to understand what’s being said. Players are allowed to speak other languages, so long as they can also speak and understand English. If the show is successful, versions in other languages might be produced, just as Netflix reality shows like The Circle and Love is Blind have been adapted for various countries.
The production will be especially tricky, as producers won’t know who’s going to survive in advance and therefore must get sufficient coverage of all 456 contestants in the early stages of the game in order to craft an edit that follows the show’s “protagonists” all the way through. The challenges will be inspired by the dramatic series, but there will be differences and additions to keep players off guard.
Squid Game told the story of a divorced father and gambler (Lee Jung-jae) who enters a secret competition where 456 players compete in a series of playground games such as tug of war. The losers of each round are executed until just one victor remains.
It’s not yet clear how reality show’s $4.56 million will be distributed. Will it be a winner-take-all payout like in the drama series? Or will the funds be spread among a certain number of finalists, as in other competitions with a large number of competitors such as the World Series of Poker?
The Challenge is a co-production between Studio Lambert (The Circle) and The Garden (24 Hours in A&E), part of ITV Studios, and it will be filmed in the U.K. Stephen Lambert, Tim Harcourt and Toni Ireland from Studio Lambert and John Hay, Nicola Hill and Nicola Brown from The Garden will serve as executive producers.
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