'Friends' Is Officially Leaving Netflix for a New Streaming Service
Like the theme song says, they'll be there for you… but now it will be on a new subscription service called HBO MAX. In yet another sign that the streaming wars are heating up, WarnerMedia has officially announced the name of its new direct-to-consumer streaming platform, which is expected to launch in spring of 2020 and include 10,000 hours of content. Yes, as previously reported back in 2018, that will include Friends, the sitcom that debuted on NBC in the '90s and has since become one of Netflix's most popular shows.
As the HBO MAX name would suggest, the service will include access to HBO's large slate of original programming, along with old episodes of shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Pretty Little Liars. (It's a little unclear what this means for HBO Go as a stand-alone service going forward.) The service will also feature programming drawn from Warner-affiliated properties like CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, and more. HBO MAX will also be the streaming home of Warner Brothers produced dramas that air on the CW starting in the 2019 season like the upcoming superhero show Batwoman and the Riverdale spin-off Katy Keene.
Will there be movies? As you'd imagine, HBO MAX will offer up recent Warner Brothers-produced hits like Crazy Rich Asians, A Star is Born, and Wonder Woman. There will also be original films produced by Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon. As the HBO MAX trailer below promises, the service will offer lots of stuff in an attempt to woo you away from Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and whatever other streaming service gets announced in the coming months.
But Friends, which Netflix reportedly paid $100 million to keep through 2019, has proven to be an essential pawn in the elaborate corporate chess match currently playing out across the menu screen of your Apple TV, and its presence on the HBO MAX slate is a symbol of what's to come. The Hollywood Reporterquotes sources that say WarnerMedia paid "$85 million per year for five years" -- that's a total of $425 million -- for the popular sitcom. Apparently, companies are willing to write big checks for hours of jokes about Gunther and the Ugly Naked Guy. (Don't get those references? Start streaming on Netflix while you still can.)
Netflix put out its own statement about the news on its voice-ey Twitter account, striking a joking but melancholy note about this tragic loss to its library of content.
The news arrives at a tricky moment for Netflix. Last month, NBCUniversal announced that its ad-supported streaming service will be the exclusive streaming home for The Office, another older sitcom that's often noted as one of the most highly-watched shows on Netflix. According to CNBC, Netflix offered $90 million to try to keep the Steve Carell-starring show on the platform but NBCUniversal was willing to pay $100 million per year for five years. Cue the Michael Scott "Noooo" video.
Obviously, Netflix has spent billions of dollars on original programming, building up an arsenal of original series and movies in the last few years, because this outcome was inevitable. They knew this was coming. Older network shows like The Office and Friends, which were the lifeblood of Netflix when it first launched its streaming service, were eventually going to return to their original owners. What's less clear is if the programming Netflix has created will inspire the same level of loyalty as Friends or The Office -- or if these legacy shows are really as much of a deal-breaker as some users claim they are. (Yes, you can always order them on DVD and solve the "problem" forever that way.) If your job's a joke and you're broke, will you still pay to spend time with all your TV pals? We'll have to wait and see.