Netflix Pays Zero Royalties for Its Most Popular Show Ever

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Credit: Netflix

The debate over royalty payments to the people who actually create the streaming content we all ceaselessly consume has risen to a fever pitch, with Hollywood grinding to a halt during the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. Basically, when the union writers who come up with the scripts and guide the story being told say they won’t do it until some new payment agreements are discussed, show business pretty much stops in America. However, it turns out that the streaming giant Netflix has developed a solution for that issue: just don’t pay royalties to a writer at all.

Per a new report in the Los Angeles Times, Netflix is taking advantage of looser labor laws and lack of union protection in South Korea to avoid paying royalties for the extremely popular shows originating there. Shockingly, it turns out that Netflix Squid Game creator, writer, and director Hwang Dong-hyuk receives zero royalties for the show, despite it being the single most popular show ever on Netflix.

netflix squid game
Credit: Netflix

Related: David Fincher Reportedly Joins ‘Squid Games’ Reboot

Netflix Made a Lot of Money From Squid Game

Specifically, Netflix claims that Squid Game has been watched for a collective 1.65 billion hours since it debuted on the streaming platform, outstripping even huge English-language series like Stranger Things and The Witcher. The show is far and away the most popular show on the streamer, despite it having a relatively low budget for a show of its status.

Reportedly, Netflix increased its value by approximately $900 million directly because of Squid Game. For his part, Hwang Dong-hyuk was paid a flat fee for the show (of which he singlehandedly wrote and directed every episode) and was contractually required to forfeit all intellectual property rights to the series in order to get it produced.

Photo Credit: Netflix

Writer Royalty Rates Are at the Heart of the WGA Strike

In the United States, the WGA (supported by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre) has halted production on virtually every television series in the country, including those produced by Netflix. Obviously, this is very expensive for the streamer.

Related: The Biggest Fan-Favorite Netflix Series Has Been Saved From Cancelation

Royalty rates paid for streaming content are the crux of the strike, as is Netflix’s alleged unwillingness to properly compensate writers. But in South Korea, the massive success of Squid Game has apparently given the company a reputation for being able to produce shows at a much higher level and break people into fame on a global level; as one might expect, this has given Netflix disproportionate power to demand things like zero-royalty contracts.

Photo Credit: Netflix

Squid Game Continues to Make Money for Netflix

It seems that Netflix, encouraged by the success of Squid Game, is going all in on South Korea, producing dozens of shows and announcing it would invest $2.5 billion more into purchasing original content and programming from creators in the country. Notably, it did not announce that it would begin to pay royalties for those programs.

Squid Game season 2 is currently in development, as is the reality show spinoff Squid Game The Challenge (co-produced by Studio Lambert). The Writers Guild strike has no end in sight, so we can probably expect Netflix to be harvesting as much “cost-effective” Korean content as it can.

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