12:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Friends': Inside Netflix and WarnerMedia's New $80M Streaming Deal
Could WarnerMedia's new streaming deal for Friends be any better?
On Monday, Netflix — and Ross' famed Holiday Armadillo — announced that Warner Bros. TV-produced Friends would remain on the streaming platform through 2019. The news came after diehard fans of the mega-hit comedy nearly flipped a proverbial internet table on social media after seeing a notice on Netflix's Friends page that the show starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry would be expiring Jan. 1. That would have meant that one of television's most beloved series would not be available to stream on any platform.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the new deal between WarnerMedia and Netflix is a multiyear pact that is worth between $70 million and $80 million for 2019 alone. Those same sources downplayed the New York Times report that estimated the 2019 deal for the series was worth $100 million. That marks a massive uptick from the four-year agreement the companies signed in 2014 that brought Friends exclusively to Netflix in a pact worth $30 million annually.
The new agreement gives AT&T-owned WarnerMedia the option in 2020 and beyond to also stream Friends on its forthcoming Netflix rival, which is due to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019. After 2019, Netflix could have non-exclusive rights to the series as Friends could also stream on WarnerMedia's platform at a price point that is currently being negotiated. The deal also includes the option for WarnerMedia to terminate the Netflix pact, at which point Friends would stream exclusively on its SVOD platform.
Netflix and WarnerMedia declined comment.
"They re-signed Friends. .... They re-signed it on a non-exclusive basis," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said of the Netflix deal on Tuesday at the 46th annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. "What does that mean? It means Friends can go on our platform as well."
The executive added that Friends is the type of "content that we would definitely want on our platform, and it is obviously very important to Netflix as well. … Is it necessary to be exclusive to WarnerMedia on their product? No, it's not necessary, it's just important that we have the content."
The 2014 deal marked the first streaming pact for Friends, which continues to air in syndication on TBS (which is part of the WarnerMedia family) and multiple Viacom-owned cable networks, including Nick at Nite. The new deal arrives as Friends ranks as one of Netflix's most-watched acquired series. That the streamer would shell out $70 million to $80 million for exclusive streaming rights in 2019 for Friends signals the demand for content in an era where media behemoths like Disney, AT&T and Apple are all shelling out big bucks for programming in a bid to define brands and lure viewers and subscribers.
WarnerMedia's direct-to-consumer streaming service will have three tiers: a starter movie package, a premium service with original programming and blockbuster movies and a bundle of content from the first two packages that includes library content (like Friends) and licensed content from outside studios.