Netflix has “Friends” reruns through December, but don’t expect the gang to stick around much longer. WarnerMedia, which owns the series, wants it for its new rival streaming service. (Photo: JON RAGEL, NBC)
PASADENA, Calif. – Don’t expect “Friends” to remain on Netflix for long.
WarnerMedia, which extended its license for reruns of NBC’s hit comedy to the streaming giant, is planning a rival of its own. And the still-untitled service, to begin a rollout this fall, is not in a sharing mood.
“Expect that the crown jewels of Warner will ultimately end up on the service” exclusively, Kevin Reilly, the TNT and TBS president who is also overseeing content for the new project, suggested in his first public comments about it at the Television Critics Association Monday. “For the most part, sharing destination assets like that is not a good idea.”
Netflix extended its deal for “Friends” in December, at a reported price of $100 million for 2019 alone, but WarnerMedia has an option to pull the show on Jan. 1, 2020, or share it. (“Friends” continues to air in syndication on local stations and TBS).
The new service will compete in an increasingly crowded arena that includes not only Netflix, Amazon and Hulu but planned entries from Comcast’s NBC Universal, due in 2020, and Disney+, a family-friendly destination for content tied to “Star Wars,” Marvel, Pixar and other franchises that arrives this fall.
Kevin Reilly, the TBS and TNT president who will oversee content for WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, gave the first glimpse of plans for it at the Television Critics Association Feb. 11. (Photo: Charley Gallay, Getty Images for Turner)
But Reilly says there’s plenty of room for more. “It’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “Our mission is to offer consumers an excellent alternative to be one of their choices. HBO, a premiere platform, gives us a great starting point.”
The company will begin promoting the service to the 50 million subscribers of HBO, who are expected to be offered a tiered combo package. Reilly declined to discuss how much the new service will cost or whether streaming services like HBO Now, DC Universe and CW’s standalone app will continue to exist separately.
But unlike Disney+, which has sibling Hulu for adult fare, WarnerMedia will program to all age groups: from Cartoon Network’s “Scooby Doo” and “Steven Universe,” CW’s “Supernatural” and “Supergirl,” Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken” and “Rick and Morty,” New Line Cinema’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Wedding Crashers,” and Warner Bros. “Casablanca” and “Caddyshack.”
“There’s no piece of content in the WarnerMedia portfolio that will not be not looked at,” Reilly said. “That doesn’t mean every (show) will wind up on the service (or) end up there permanently.”
Beginning this spring, it will commission original programming aimed at each of these audiences, to begin rolling out in 2020. “We want to offer a more differentiated, curated (subscription video) brand” that doesn’t overwhelm viewers with programming.
“We’re seeing consumers want more ease navigating and connecting to the environment,” Reilly said. “We don’t think entertainment should induce a stress response.”
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