Jul 9, 2019

Netflix is now losing "Friends" in addition to "The Office"

Warner Media, the content company created when AT&T acquired Time Warner last year, announced Tuesday that it would be calling its new direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service "HBO Max."

Driving the news: It unveiled a new slate of programming that would debut on the service next year, include the entire "Friends" catalog, which had previously been made available on Netflix.

Why it matters: As the battle between streaming services heats up, expect more fights over "catalog" content, or older classic shows with lots of episodes that keep users hooked to their accounts.

Details: On top of "Friends," Warner Media announced several other programming updates for "HBO Max," which it says is scheduled to launch commercially in spring of 2020 with 10,000 hours of premium content.

  • It will have the exclusive streaming rights at launch to all episodes of fan favorites “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Pretty Little Liars,” as well as the exclusive rights to 'Warner Bros.’ produced dramas for The CW beginning with the fall 2019 season.
  • It will also include exclusive movie production deals with Hollywood Heavyweights like producers Greg Berlanti and ReeseWitherspoon.

Be smart: The title alludes to the fact that the service will include HBO's hit programming, as well as other content from within the Warner Media umbrella, which includes Turner, a network of cable channels, and Warner Bros.

Our thought bubble: The goal for Warner Media is likely to convert as many HBO subscribers as possible over to the new service. As of now, only a few million people subscribe to HBO's digital service, HBO Now.

  • In order for it to pay off for Warner Media to be able to afford buying exclusive rights to major catalogs, it's going to need to be able to add subscribers quickly.
  • Data suggests that some consumers will leave Netflix if the "Friends" library leaves the service.

The big picture: Netflix was able to rise to streaming dominance years ago by acquiring the streaming rights to catalogue classics at a low cost. (This was before Netflix has nearly 150 million subscribers worldwide, so the networks sold Netflix those rights on the cheap.)

What's next: Now that Warner Media, Disney, and others are building streaming services to compete with Netflix, expect to see more catalog programming get yanked from Netflix's library, and pulled onto the services of TV networks that own those titles.

  • For example, NBCUniversal announced two weeks ago that "The Office" would move to its streaming service beginning in 2021.

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