Based on the discussions and memes still showing up on social media 15 years after Friends ended, TV historians might have to soon call it the most influential sitcom of all time. This is still an arguable case by all mean, but how many other sitcoms other than Seinfeld do the mainstream public still reference or discuss?
Having it on Netflix has obviously helped, even though Friends has also been in TV syndication for years. Clearly, the plots and characters still resonate with those who remember the 1990s as our last gilded age.
With Friends soon disappearing from Netflix, we’ll have our first test on whether it’ll still be in the public consciousness long-term.
‘Friends’ did well in syndication for years before landing on Netflix
On May 6, we saw the 15th anniversary of the end of Friends, which would normally feel like a long time. For some, it may feel even longer, or just a few short years ago. It may even feel like the show has been on Netflix forever when it’s only been four and a half years.
When Netflix announced it would start streaming Friends in January of 2015, fans rejoiced at the prospect of being able to finally binge-watch their favorite show after 11 years of being in syndication.
The old way of watching sitcom reruns was always to turn into your local stations during the afternoons or early evenings to catch either one (or sometimes two) episodes per weekday. Several generations are familiar with this syndication procedure, something beginning in earnest in the 1960s when TV producers realized how much money could be made.
All prospects of making a fortune with Friends was already set before the show even went off the air. Little did the producers and cast know they’d be able to make even more money a decade later through streaming services. Reportedly, the show pulls in $1 billion per year, with each cast member making $20 million annually.
Where will ‘Friends’ go when it leaves Netflix?
Because it’s such a proven moneymaker, the chances are good Friends will end up on some other streaming service eventually. It could almost go on its own streaming site and probably make an extra billion if providing exclusive extras.
We’re more than certain such a thing won’t happen since there isn’t any extra work involved placing the show in streaming rotation for automatic revenue. The question is, what would happen to Friends if it no longer was acquired by streaming services?
Apparently, the price tag of it was just a little too much for Netflix to renew the license with Warner Bros. Not that it stopped Netflix from upping the contract for one more year due to fan complaints this last fall.
Yes, this means you can still see Friends on Netflix until late this year (2019). After this point, we have to wonder if the show ends up exclusively in syndication again due to its high licensing fee.
Warner Bros. may have to lower their price to woo other streaming services
With Netflix forking over $118 million for the rights to stream Friends, it’s worth pondering whether any other streaming service would want to pay this much to acquire the series. To date, it’s the second most expensive show to acquire next to Seinfeld. Hulu paid $160 million for the rights to the latter sitcom classic.
If Friends starts to become too expensive for streaming, what happens to it? Warner Bros. may have to drop the price since people may not have the patience to watch one episode at a time in syndication.
Plus, if it’s away from streaming for years, it could easily start to remove itself from the consciousness of those who grew up watching. No one should underestimate how easy it is for people to forget in a time when there are a million other media distractions.