It’s hard to believe a beloved nineties sitcom could still be making headlines these days, but thanks to the world of streaming, Friends has been in a mini-controversy in recent weeks. Originally, the show was expected to leave Netflix at the end of the month, but the subscription streaming service worked out a deal to keep the show through 2019. That deal reportedly cost Netflix $100 million.
SVOD rights are a complicated business and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu reach the end of deals every months. Some of these deals get re-upped so that shows and movies remain on streaming services. Other rights will return to the parent studios so they can shop around or shelve the programs for a while. In Friends‘ case, negotiations had been ongoing, but until a deal is in place, Netflix typically lists expiration dates.
With this in mind, it wasn’t super shocking to hear the deal for Friends was coming up, but it was a little shocking to hear how much Netflix shelled out for the series in order to retain the rights to the former NBC comedy.
According to the New York Times, the $100 million a year that WarnerMedia negotiated with Netflix for 2019 is a gigantic jump over what the streaming service paid for Friends. The previous deal, according to people who spoke with the outlet, was around $30 million a year to license all 236 episodes of the long-running show.
Over the past few years, Netflix has slowly but surely whittled down its streaming library, at least in terms of licensed content. On the other hand, the company has beefed up its originals programming lineup with a slew of TV programs and movies meant to draw in new subscribers and keep its current subscriber base shelling out every month.
Netflix was quick to reassure fans that Friends would be staying on the streaming service, noting:
However, it’s unclear as the service grows if a show like Netflix will be able to maintain a home there. CBS All Access and the upcoming Disney streaming service and other networks have stakes in Hulu. All of these mean that more and more programs get pushed onto proprietary platforms.
So it’s hard to tell what the future of licensed content will end up being on Netflix. Still, for now the company is at least willing to pay huge to maintain programs like Friends that have major value with different audience bases. Still, for now Friends will be there for you.