Netflix Renews ‘Friends’ Deal Through 2019—But There’s a Catch

     December 4, 2018

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For all the talk of Netflix being able to survive mostly on the strength of its original content, there was certainly a significant amount of uproar yesterday when it looked like Friends was leaving the streaming service’s library. A notification popped up for users over the weekend that revealed that the beloved NBC sitcom would be expiring from Netflix on January 1, 2019. This wasn’t entirely out of the blue—WarnerMedia intends to launch its own streaming service at the end of 2019, and most assumed that Warner Bros TV-owned Friends would be a major part of that service at launch. But fans were still mighty unhappy.

Thankfully, Netflix came out and assured folks that Friends will remain on Netflix throughout 2019, with CCO Ted Sarandos going so far as to say that Friends leaving Netflix was simply “a rumor.” Well we now have some more clarity on what, exactly, is going on, and how long you can expect Friends to be there for you.

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Image via NBC

The folks over at the Wall Street Journal report that WarnerMedia has reached an agreement to keep Friends on Netflix throughout 2019, but the particulars of the deal allow WarnerMedia to also put the show on its impending streaming service. Indeed, while Netflix’s renewal of the license allows them to keep Friends in their library at least through the end of 2019, exclusivity is not guaranteed for the length of the deal. After 2019, WarnerMedia has an option to put Friends on its own streaming service either exclusively or in a shared deal with Netflix—meaning Friends might be available on two streaming services at once.

This isn’t entirely unique, as there are a number of shows on Hulu that also show up on Netflix and/or Amazon and so on, but it is rare for a show of Friends’ stature to share exclusivity. For Netflix, this is simply the cost of keeping one of its most-watched library titles available for its subscribers, and for WarnerMedia the money that Netflix pays them to keep Friends on Netflix through 2019 can be used to further build out their own streaming service.

Details on WarnerMedia’s streaming service are scant at the moment, but we do know that they intend to offer three tiers: One service will focus on just movies, another on original programming and more films, and a third will include movies, original programming, and classic films and children’s programming—this third tier is essentially where WarnerMedia is putting the movies it had previously made available on FilmStruck (RIP).

So Friends fans can rest easy. The show will now remain on Netflix through the end of 2019, at which point it will either move over to WarnerMedia and leave Netflix entirely, or it will be made available on both WarnerMedia’s streaming service and Netflix at the same time. But as far as January goes, Netflix and Friends will not be on a break.

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