WarnerMedia Readying ‘Friends’ Pop-Up Retail Store

WarnerMedia Aug. 2 began selling tickets to a “Friends”-themed pop-up retail/promotion store running Sept. 7 to Oct. 6 in Manhattan, N.Y.

Created by Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Warner Bros. Television Group and Superfly — the latter responsible for “The Seinfeld Experience” store operating through February 2020 in New York — the concept targets consumer interest in TV nostalgia, memorabilia and show artifacts surrounding the 25th anniversary of the “Friends” sitcom debut Sept. 22, 1994, on NBC.

The situation comedy about six friends in their 20s and early 30s living in New York City starred an ensemble cast that included Courtney Cox and then-unknowns Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer. It aired in primetime until May 6, 2004.

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Located in the heart of Manhattan’s SoHo district, the ticketholder entrance will be at 76 Mercer St. (between Spring & Broome), and the retail store entrance will be at 503 Broadway. Store hours are seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fans can reserve a time slot to visit with a ticket purchase priced at $29.50.

“The fascination and universal appeal of the TV series lives on with fans of all ages,” Peter van Roden, SVP, Global Themed Entertainment, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, said in a statement. “As we celebrate the show’s milestone anniversary, we are excited to bring the ‘Friends’ experience to life for our fans in a way that pays homage to the remarkable cast of characters, iconic sets and instantly quotable moments.”

Analyst: Netflix to Weather Content Migration — For Now

With Netflix set to release second-quarter (ended June 30) financial results on July 17, Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles and longtime Netflix bear, contends the subscription streaming video pioneer will add 5.3 million subscribers, including 300,000 in the United States.

The tally surprisingly exceeds Wall Street consensus and Netflix’s projection of 5 million new subs, including 4.7 million international subs.

Pachter argues that despite media attention to the departures of popular TV reruns “Friends” and “The Office” from Netflix in two years, the service has more than enough content in the pipeline and willingness to spend big on new programming to weather the storm.

“Friends” and “The Office” account for an estimated 5% of all viewing on Netflix, leaving other content that accounts for 95% of viewing on Netflix in place.

Indeed, Netflix launched 21 new shows in Q2, excluding 13 returning series. That compared to six news series and 17 returning series in the previous-year period.

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At the same time, content from NBC Universal, Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. currently accounts for upwards of 65% of Netflix viewing hours, according to Wedbush.

Pachter expects the migration of third-party content away from Netflix to competing platforms to be relatively slow and is unclear whether the service can successfully replace it with quantity and quality to keep its subscribers loyal.

“We think it is likely that Netflix will pay whatever it takes to attract high quality content and believe its competitors will be slow to gain scale,” Pachter wrote in a note. “Thus, we expect the status quo to be largely maintained until the end of 2021. For now, Netflix provides tremendous value for its subscribers.”

NBC Universal Taking Back ‘The Office’ From Netflix in 2021

As expected, NBC Universal June 25 announced it has secured the exclusive domestic streaming rights to “The Office.” All nine seasons of the catalog NBC sitcom will be available on the company’s soon-to-be-launched ad-supported/subscription streaming service for five years, beginning 2021.

The sitcom, similarly to Warner Bros. Television’s “Friends,” is currently exclusively licensed to Netflix. Both shows have become subscriber favorites for the SVOD behemoth — and thus coveted programming for NBC and WarnerMedia as they prep pending over-the-top video platforms.

“‘The Office’ has become a staple of pop-culture and is a rare gem whose relevance continues to grow at a time when fans have more entertainment choices than ever before,” Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, said in a statement.

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“The Office” is the number one series on SVOD, according to the media company. In 2018, it was streamed for over 52 billion minutes, and in April 2019, it was viewed nearly twice as much as the next most-viewed program on SVOD.

“‘The Office’ is one of our most prized series,” said Pearlena Igbokwe, president, Universal Television.

Produced by Universal Television in association with Deedle-Dee Productions and Reveille Productions, “The Office” takes a documentary-style look at the humorous and foolishness that plagues the 9-to-5 world. Based on the award-winning BBC hit, “The Office” is a fly-on-the-wall “docu-reality” parody of modern American office life that delves into the lives of the workers at Dunder Mifflin, a paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The show, which premiered on NBC in 2005, created indelible characters like Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute and Pam & Jim, and launched the careers of some of Steve Carrell, Ed Helms, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, B.J. Novak, Craig Robinson and Mike Schur, among others.

“The Office” is executive-produced by Ben Silverman, Greg Daniels – who developed the series for American audiences – Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Howard Klein, Paul Lieberstein, Brent Forrester and Dan Sterling.

In addition to being NBC’s highest-rated scripted series for multiple seasons during its broadcast run, “The Office” was named one of the best shows on TV by dozens of media outlets, including TIME MagazineRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly and The Atlantic, while also being a consistent awards contender with 180 nominations and more than 40 wins.

Among its prestigious honors are the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, the Peabody Award, AFI Honors, the Producers Guild Award, the Writers Guild Award, the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, and a Television Critic’s Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.

NBC Universal Planning to Offer ‘The Office’ on New Streaming Service

NBC Universal reportedly plans to stream popular catalog sitcom, “The Office” on its pending streaming video service.

The media company owned by Comcast disclosed the move May 13 during its advertising upfront at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Comcast is slated to launch a free ad-supported VOD service for Xfinity subscribers next year. Non-pay-TV subs would be charged an undisclosed monthly fee.

“While other companies are pushing advertisers out, we’re bringing you in,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships at NBC Universal, told advertisers, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the move.

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Yaccarino is on Hulu’s board of directors, along with NBC Universal’s Matt Bond and Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment. NBC Universal co-owns Hulu with Disney.

The programming decision is significant since “The Office,” along with WarnerMedia’s “Friends,” remains extremely popular on Netflix. The SVOD behemoth recently renewed an exclusive license agreement for ‘The Office” through 2020.

Last year, it reportedly paid WarnerMedia $100 million for exclusive rights to an additional single season of the sitcom.

Netflix earlier this year tweeted it had signed “Office” star Steve Carell for a new workplace comedy created by “Office” showrunner Greg Daniels about people working in the new armed services unit: “Space Force.”

Netflix Original Content Outpacing Licensed Fare

As expected, Netflix is spending more on original content than licensing third-party programming. While Netflix senior management has long championed original vs. licensed fare as evidenced by its indifference toward Disney’s decision to withdraw first-run movies from the streaming service – now there’s data to prove it.

London-based Ampere Analysis found that 51% of domestic programming was original (proprietary and exclusive from studio partners) through the end of 2018 – up from 25% at the end of 2016. The research firm contends 30% of Netflix original content is studio based.

“Netflix’s strategy is clearly moving towards a self-sufficiency model,” analyst Lottie Towler said in a statement. “Its focus on growing the proportion of original content in its catalog shows no sign of slowing down – in fact Ampere’s analysis shows the streaming giant is reaching a point where it produces almost all the new and fresh content, while only the older content is licensed.”

In December 2017, more than 3,000 titles available on Netflix U.K. were available in more than 15 Netflix markets worldwide. In December 2018 the tally had increased by 1,600 titles.

“I’d say the vast majority of the content that is watched on Netflix [is] our original content brands,” CCO Ted Sarandos said on the fourth-quarter fiscal webcast.

Ampere contends Netflix’s focus on proprietary programming will help the streamer when episodic content producers such as Disney/ABC Television, Warner Bros. Television and NBC Universal pull back popular shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Friends,” and “The Office,” among others.

“This will position Netflix well in the market should other major studios follow in the steps of Fox and Disney and pull their content from SVOD services in advance of launching their own [direct-to-consumer] offers,” Towler said.

 

Netflix’s ‘Russian Doll,’ ‘Sex Education’ Top ‘TV Time’ Binge Week Chart

Netflix created the binge-viewing phenomenon, so it’s understandable if two of the SVOD pioneer’s original series ranked among the top-three binged TV shows from Feb. 4 to Feb. 10, according to TV Time.com.

Top series streamed repeatedly included Netflix’s “Russian doll,” starring Natasha Lyonne, and “Sex Education,” starring Gillian Anderson, Kedar Williams and Asa Butterfield, among others.

Notably, re-runs of “Friends” finished third, underscoring why Netflix paid $100 million to series’ owner Warner Bros. Television for the rights through 2019.

TV Time claims to rank shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the TV Time app within a given day.

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Separately, TV Time reports that actress Natasha Lyonne was the No. 1 trending talent of the week, based on fan votes. Lyonne’s role as Nadia Vulvokov in “Russian Doll” is currently the third runner-up out of Lyonne’s cast of characters following “Orange Is the New Black” and “Smoky Quartz.”

 

 

WarnerMedia Streaming Service Eyeing Original Content in 2020

WarnerMedia is launching a proprietary over-the-top video platform in the fourth quarter featuring catalog content from subsidiaries HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner.

The unnamed service plans to roll out original fare beginning in 2020, according to Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and head of content and strategy at the new service.

Speaking Feb. 11 at the Television Critics Association annual winter tour in Los Angeles, Reilly said the service would be beta-launched featuring catalog fare from Warner, Warner Bros. Television, New Line Cinema, HBO and Turner subsidiaries such as Adult Swim, The CW, and Cartoon Network, among others.

“Our beta will not have original programming, but we will introduce it in 2020,” Reilly said. “Expect it in all the verticals: kids and family, teens up to adult.”

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While traditional media and OTT services scramble to produce differentiating distribution platforms featuring original content, WarnerMedia intends to walk the fine line between licensing and restricting programming to third-party services.

WarnerMedia made news last year renewing the coveted “Friends” catalog to Netflix for one year for a reported $100 million. It was a move that contradicted in part CEO John Stankey’s stated mission to restrict proprietary programming to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other services not named Hulu.

WarnerMedia is a co-owner of Hulu with Disney, Fox and Comcast.

“The dynamic those [SVOD] incumbents are playing with are still 75% to 80% of viewing tonnage is that licensed content,” Stankey told analysts last November. “Their pressure is they’ve got to make this pivot to get people off of viewing content that sits in our library, or the Disney library, and get it onto their own.”

Reilly concurs, saying he expects the “crown jewels” of Warner programming to eventually migrate predominantly to the new service.

“We’re not pulling it away [from third parties] but it certainly is something we’re looking to do,” he said. “I think for the most part sharing destination assets [like ‘Friends’] is not a good model. They should be exclusive to the [new] service.”

The executive said the service would also feature shows such as “Titans,” “Doom Patrol” and pending “Swamp Thing,” heretofore exclusive to DC Universe, the SVOD service launched last year.

“There is no piece of content in the Warner Media portfolio that will not be looked at for the service,” Reilly said. “That doesn’t mean every piece of content will end up on the service or end up on the service permanently. Content goes through a natural life cycle at which it benefits at times being off a platform or being on a new platform.”

 

Report: ‘Friends’ Most-Binged TV Series in 2018

There’s a reason Netflix reportedly spent $100 million securing additional rights through 2019 to 14-year-old episodes of former NBC sitcom, “Friends.”

People continue to binge-watch (four or more episodes of a show watched successively) episodes of the series that made cast members Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and Courtney Cox household names, according to new data from TV Time.

How popular is “Friends”? TV Time said nearly 1.3 million people track the series through its app.

Other top series (in order) include “Grey’s Anatomy,” Netflix originals “13 Reasons Why” and “Money Heist,” The CW’s “Riverdale,” Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The 100” (CW), “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix), “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) and “Pretty Little Liars” (Freeform).