‘Friends’ Digital and Physical Sales Up in Midst of Netflix/HBO Max Shuffle

     February 20, 2020

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For many years of Netflix service, folks in need of television comfort food streamed, and re-streamed, and re-streamed some more a little ’90s sitcom called Friends. Even as Netflix kept pumping out original content, folks kept returning to Friends, seeking solace in those six buds — David SchwimmerMatthew PerryMatt LeBlancJennifer AnistonCourteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow — hanging out in those NYC apartments no one can afford. Until… poof. In the crossfire of every media company crafting their own separate streaming services, Friends left Netflix, on a road to the forthcoming HBO Max. Which means, right now, Friends straight up ain’t streaming anywhere. So how can you watch it? Well, Variety reported on a curious side effect to this streaming detour — the rise in sales of Friends‘ digital and physical versions.

And this ain’t small potatoes. Since the announcement that Friends would be leaving Netflix, Warner Bros. senior vice president of TV marketing Rosemary Markson says the digital and physical sales of the 10-season show have “roughly tripled… We were seeing strong sales across both physical and digital, and we’ve seen a particularly strong uptick in digital. If you think of DVDs as the original bingeing mechanism, it’s a way to collect and adds permanence and repeatability to be able to watch the show.” I’m sorry: DVDs are “the original bingeing mechanism”? You know, people may have laughed at my enormous blu-ray collection that takes up half of my living room… but who’s laughing now?!

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Image via Warner Bros. Entertainment

In all seriousness, this story does serve as a nice reminder of the ongoing importance and relevance of physical media — it’s so important that we’re recontextualizing how we discuss streaming media to the helpfulness of physical media! Basically: as streaming services continue to evolve and splinter, and our beloved shows and movies hop across platforms, these beautiful discs, with their beautiful resolutions, will always be there, ready to give you entertainment. Or, as Kathi Chandler-Payatt, executive director for the media entertainment practice at The NPD Group puts it, “Although platform-owned titles may or will be held back for exhibition on the distributor’s platform, and audiences may know where to find the content, there’s no guarantee that the content will always be available… The only way to guarantee evergreen access to content is through ownership.” Now if you excuse me, I’m going to watch my 2004 two-disc director’s cut DVD of Saw with the squishy bloody literal saw cover for the 9000th time.

For more on the future of Friends, check out intel on a reunion special that might be coming to HBO Max. Plus: a ranking of all 10 seasons.

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