Earlier this week, Netflix confirmed that the acclaimed sitcom Friends will stay on the streaming platform through the end of 2019, following rumours of it being removed in January. Now, a New York Times report reveals the gargantuan licensing fee that Netflix is paying licensor WarnerMedia to keep Friends on the streaming network for another year.
Two people said to have knowledge of the matter told NYT that the price tag was $100 million. According to the report, that’s up from the $30 million that Netflix previously paid WarnerMedia annually to keep the beloved show on its platform in the United States. Friends isn’t available on Netflix everywhere; for example, in Australia it streams on Stan, not Netflix.
The controversy, if you want to call it that, started after people noticed that the Friends page on Netflix’s website stated–for a period of time–that the show would leave in January. According to NYT, Netflix’s deal with WarnerMedia was indeed set to expire at the end of 2018. However, Netflix and WarnerMedia owner AT&T were in discussions “for at least a few months” about coming to terms on a deal to extend the licensing agreement.
WarnerMedia is set to launch its own streaming platform at the end of 2019, and obviously, Friends is a property that would help get people to sign up. Indeed, AT&T boss Randall Stephenson said during an investor conference this week that he “definitely” wants Friends on WarnerMedia’s platform, while acknowledging it is “important to Netflix as well.”
Referencing the new deal between WarnerMedia and Netflix, Stephenson confirmed it is non-exclusive, so Friends could appear on Netflix and WarnerMedia’s own network simultaneously.
WarnerMedia and Netflix are already discussing a licensing fee for Friends after 2019, but it’s expected to be much less than $100 million given that it wouldn’t necessarily be exclusive to Netflix, according to the report. The sources added that another possibility is for Friends to leave Netflix after 2019. Officially, Friends is only confirmed to stay on Netflix through the end of 2019.
You can read the full NYT report here.
Critically acclaimed, Friends ran for 10 seasons from 1994 through 2004. Its May 2004 finale drew 52.5 million viewers in America, according to The New York Times. As of 2015, the show was bringing in $1 billion every year from syndication, with stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Perry making $20 million a year from that based on their 2 percent share of syndication revenue, according to USA Today.