Channel 4 drops 'Friends' after 15 years

Making way for more contemporary youth-oriented fare

LONDON -- It's the end of a beautiful "Friends"ship -- Channel 4 has opted not to renew licensing deals for the iconic NBC comedy beyond 2011, 15 years after it began airing, and will instead seek more contemporary youth-oriented fare, both acquired and home produced for its networks.

Ending its tie to the 15-year-old Warner Bros-distributed series will provide an opportunity to refresh the schedule across Channel 4 and E4, the broadcaster said, and alongside the decision to axe "Big Brother" after 2010, will free up funding to develop new U.K. content and acquire the latest shows coming out of the U.S.

"After 15 years, 10 hit series and 236 terrific episodes it's time to say goodbye to old 'Friends' and welcome new ones, in the form of more comedy, drama and entertainment from the U.S. and U.K.," said head of acquisitions Gill Hay.

"We are incredibly proud to have been the home of 'Friends' for so long, but at a point when the channel is undergoing a period of creative renewal it felt like the right time to part company."

While the adventures of Chandler, Monica, Phoebie, Ross and Rachel captivated primetime viewers on Channel 4 when the show was at its ratings peak -- and provided Channel 4 and E4 with stripped daytime slots long after the show came off air, its audiences have leaned more towards such fare as "True Blood," "90210" and "Glee" in recent years.