Netflix subscribers no longer have access to the popular sitcom, ‘Friends.’ The removal of all ten seasons of the show means Friends cannot currently be streamed via a subscription service. The unavailability of Friends will change later in the year when AT&T and WarnerMedia launch the new HBO Max streaming service.
Friends is not only a popular show with the public, but also with streaming services. In spite of the show ending some years ago, it still generates significant views. This is the reason why Netflix has retained access to the show over the last few years. In fact, the show had proven so important to Netflix, that the streaming service reportedly paid around $100 million just to keep it as part of its catalog throughout 2019. With the year now over, and Netflix unable to secure a new deal, Friends has now departed Netflix and for good.
While Netflix has not announced the show’s removal today, Friends is no longer accessible through the streaming service. What is likely to be the more concerning issue for fans of the show is that it is now currently unavailable to stream without renting or buying, or via reruns through a live TV streaming subscription. Although this will change in due course with the launch of HBO Max.
The rights to Friends is now owned by WarnerMedia and the AT&T company is preparing to launch its new HBO Max streaming service later in 2020. In spite of being priced at the same $14.99 per month rate, HBO Max is not technically a direct replacement for the standard HBO service. Instead, it is being positioned as a maxed version which provides access to additional content from the WarnerMedia library. With Friends being the important show that it is, WarnerMedia intends to make the show exclusively available via its new streaming service.
AT&T and WarnerMedia have already confirmed HBO Max is due to go live in May, 2020. Until then, Friends will remain off the streaming airwaves. This is in the U.S. at least, as access to Friends outside of the U.S. is not expected to be affected by the change.
The first, but not the last big show change
While this is a significant loss for Netflix, it is unlikely to be the last as the loss of Friends represents one of the new directions in streaming. With many companies now looking to offer a direct-to-consumer service, the tendency is for companies to retain high profile content to add extra appeal to their own services.
For example, the U.S. version of The Office is another high profile show that’s currently available to stream via Netflix. However, NBC plans to launch its own Peacock streaming service in 2020 and has already confirmed The Office will be one of the shows spearheading the service. Similar to what has now happened with Friends, the removal of The Office in favor of a move to Peacock is also expected to take place at the end of this year.