Friends is likely leaving Netflix after Warner Media's streaming service launches. The highly successful sitcom about a group of six twenty-something friends navigating day-to-day life in New York City launched the careers of its cast, which consisted of Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courtney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry.
Friends debuted on NBC in 1994, and quickly gained such popularity that even its theme song, the poppy “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts, made quite the impact on charts around the world. The series ran for ten years and its series finale was one of the most watched in American TV history. Having gained this level of fame over the years, fans were very eager to have access to the entire series on a streaming platform. That streaming platform ended up being Netflix, and when all ten seasons of Friends arrived in January of 2015, the series seemed to have finally found a permanent home.
However, with new news arriving from Deadline, Friends fans might find themselves feeling uncertain about the future of their favorite show. It looks as though the new Warner Media streaming service is aiming to have Friends as an exclusive title, once Netflix’s licensing runs out, of course. Said TBS and TNT president Kevin Reilly on the prospect of Friends exclusivity at Warner:
“I think you can expect the crown jewels of Warner will ultimately end up on our new service. Pulling it away (from Netflix)? It’s certainly something we’re willing to do. I think for the most part, sharing destination assets like that is not a good model to share — my belief is that they should be exclusive.”
From the sound of it, Warner Media’s streaming service isn’t prepared to share its high-end titles with anyone, least of all Netflix. This poses no small amount of problems for Friends fans who might subscribe to Netflix but don’t have plans (or money) to pay for an additional streaming service. For their part, Netflix has done everything it can to keep the 1990s-era sitcom on its platform. Last December, the streaming giant put up something in the neighborhood of $100 million in order to secure Friends until at least 2020. This comes at a time where Netflix have pledged $2 billion to help fund more exclusive content. Whether it’s worth it at this time for Netflix executives to engage in some sort of bidding war with Warner Media over future rights to Friends remains to be seen, though it does seem obvious that Warner Media is fully prepared to come for what's theirs.
Undoubtedly, the streaming platform concept has revolutionized how fans view and engage with the television and films they choose to watch. With libraries of content at fans' fingertips, there has never been a time like now in terms of entertainment. But the ongoing efforts of studios and media conglomerates to make their titles exclusive to one streaming platform or another can be frustrating, to say the least. Something as simple as trying to watch one's favorite TV series shouldn’t be so difficult, especially with a series like Friends that's been around for decades and has already made more than its share of profits for all involved. Hopefully a solution can be found, but at present it looks like Friends fans who want to maintain a streaming connection to their favorite show beyond 2020 will have to look to Warner Media.