The amount is a significant jump from the $30mn a year that Netflix has paid previously to stream the show. The information was conveyed by two people with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss details of the deal.
The new amount is reflective of the thirst for content in the streaming age. Online viewing is the future of entertainment, and the industry’s biggest players — including Warner Media’s parent, AT&T; the Walt Disney Company; Comcast’s NBC Universal; Viacom; CBS; and Discovery — are retooling their streaming operations to take on services like Netflix and Amazon.
Both WarnerMedia and Netflix declined to comment on the issue.
Paying big money for hit content is necessary to expand its customer base for Netflix—which stands at 57mn in the US alone, and 130mn worldwide.
Questions about the show’s future on the service began over the weekend when customers spotted a notice on Netflix’s “Friends” page that read, “Availability Until 1/1/19.” This caused some of the show’s fans to turn hostile and resilient on social media.
At an investor conference in New York on Monday, Ted Sarandos, head of Netflix’s content division, said the show’s departure “is a rumor.”
The company officially announced that the show would remain on the service.“The Holiday Armadillo has granted your wish: ‘Friends’ will still be there for you in the US throughout 2019,” Netflix posted in a tweet, which included an image of the character Ross in an armadillo suit from a scene in which he tries to explain the story of Hanukkah to his son.
Originally, the deal to keep “Friends” on Netflix was due to expire by the end of the year, but both Netflix and AT&T had been negotiating for at least a few months to extend it, said people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Complicating the negotiation was AT&T’s plan to begin a streaming service of its own by the end of 2019. AT&T had acquired Time Warner in June for $85.4bn, landing prized assets such as HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. film and TV studios, which include shows like “Friends” and “Big Bang Theory” and blockbuster movies like “Wonder Woman.”
“That’s content we definitely want on our platform,” AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said of “Friends” at an investor conference on Tuesday. “And clearly it’s important to Netflix as well.”