WarnerMedia will probably take ‘Friends’ away from Netflix sooner than you think

The great Netflix shakeout is starting to get under way, as new streaming players come onto the scene and take whatever content they can away from Netflix to host exclusively on their own offerings, leaving Netflix to increasingly lean on its originals to fill in the gaps. Time will tell how all this ultimately plays out, and who the winners and losers will be. But if you want to know which properties currently streaming on Netflix have signs on their back, one that’s been added to the list is Friends, which Netflix scrambled to save at the end of 2018 — reaching a reported $100 million deal to keep the mega-popular NBC sitcom on the streaming giant for one more year.

Kevin Reilly, who’ll be leading content strategy for the new streaming service launching this year from Warner Bros. parent company WarnerMedia, has just laid down a gauntlet related to Friends during a panel appearance at the Television Critics Association’s 2019 gathering. “I think you can expect the crown jewels of Warner (like Friends) will ultimately end up on our new service,” he said Monday.

Ok, no surprise there. We already figured as much — that when it comes to a hot property like Friends, WarnerMedia would get to stream it, too. But no, that’s not exactly right. Stream it exclusively, is more like it. “Pulling it away (from Netflix)? It’s certainly something we’re willing to do,” Reilly continued.  

“I think for the most part, sharing destination assets like that is not a good model to share. My belief is that they should be exclusive.”

Everyone in this space, it seems, is going to be gunning for Netflix, if they aren’t already. 2019 has provided something of a stay of execution for Friends on Netflix, which late last year actually had a note on the show’s Netflix page that it would be leaving the service come January 1. That, of course, sent fans into a meltdown on social media, before Netflix apparently scrambled behind the scenes to keep it for another year. Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff, for his part, took the opportunity of Reilly’s comments to tweet that he thinks the end result of all this repositioning means that we are consumers are ultimately going to all get to a point where we pay for a base level of streaming service and then pony up a little more to access content from different networks — sort of the way you do with cable and then add on extras like Showtime, HBO and whatever else you want.

Per a report from Deadline Monday, meanwhile, Reilly went on to mention about his company’s Netflix rival “that a beta version of the WarnerMedia platform will launch in Q4 of this year.

“The streaming service has yet to be named but will encompass the Warner Bros. studio movies/TV, HBO and Turner series. The price tier is still being figured out, particularly how it’s offered to AT&T cable and DirecTV customers. It will be offered as a stand-alone service, but be a ‘seamless consumer experience,’” Reilly added.

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