‘Friends’ No More: Netflix Loses Key Content to Start 2020

New Year’s Day 2020 started ominously for Netflix as it officially no longer can stream ongoing syndication hit “Friends,” the former NBC sitcom that introduced Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe to American living rooms and made household names of Jennifer Aniston and others.

The 26-year-old series stopped airing on primetime television 16 years ago, but has remained a lucrative product on syndication, packaged media and streaming.

Netflix lost exclusive “Friends” streaming rights to WarnerMedia’s pending streaming service HBO Max, which paid $425 million over five years to snag all 236 episodes of the series. “Friends” reportedly was the second-most-popular series on Netflix in 2018, according to Nielsen.

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HBO Max reportedly spent billions more to secure exclusive streaming rights to “South Park” and “The Big Bang Theory”.

“How [‘Friends’ exit] impacts [Netflix] in terms of subscribers … will really depend on what else they have coming up that we’re not focused on,” Courtney Williams, Europe regional director for Parrot Analytics, told Vanity Fair.

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Indeed, Netflix original series “Stranger Things” and “The Witcher” continue to congregate atop weekly Parrot Analytics charts tracking the most on-demand programming.

“I don’t think any specific content matters at all to Netflix,” Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in an email. The analyst contends the bigger threat to Netflix is when other content creators collectively divert content toward proprietary services.

With Netflix increasingly losing Disney/Fox, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. content, consumers will feel compelled to try new services offering recognizable programming and/or favorite shows, according to Pachter.

The analyst believes Netflix will lose around two-thirds of its content (measured in viewing hours) and will have a tough time replacing that with content of similarly perceived quality. At the same time, Pachter says competitors such as HBO Max will take awhile to gain traction with consumers.

“We expect the [Netflix No. 1] status quo to be largely maintained until the end of 2021,” he said. “For now, Netflix provides tremendous value for its subscribers.”

Jori Arancio Named to Communications Post at HBO Max, TNT, TBS and truTV

Jori Arancio has been named EVP of communications for HBO Max, TNT, TBS and truTV.

She will report to Kevin Brockman, EVP of global communications for WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer.

Arancio was previously SVP of communications at ABC and ABC Studios.

In her new role, Arancio will be the communications point person for the entertainment units under Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, and president of TNT, TBS and truTV, working closely with his teams.  Her first day in the new job will be Jan. 6.

“I had the unique pleasure of not only working with Jori for 21 years while we were both at Disney, but also promoting her into a variety of jobs where she never failed to impress,” Brockman said in a statement. “She is one of the most strategic, thoughtful, and progressive communication executives in the business, and I’m thrilled that she’ll now bring her expertise to bear on behalf of our new streaming service and cable networks. It’s great to be working with her again.”

“From the moment I met Jori, I knew she had the unique mix of strategic focus and personal flair that makes her uniquely qualified to lead our communications and successfully collaborate with our executives and creative talent across our portfolio of media networks, while simultaneously nurturing the critical launch and growth of HBO Max,” Reilly said in a statement. “Jori will make a great addition to the senior team.”

“I am honored to be entrusted to lead the fantastic communications teams at HBO Max, TNT, TBS and truTV,” Arancio added in a statement. “I look forward to working with them to launch the streaming service and to continue to drive awareness of the great programming at the cable networks. I’m especially excited to work with Kevin Reilly, a known trailblazer with a clear vision for his brands who knows how to create cultural impact with content, as well as the talented executives on his team.  It is also a privilege to have the opportunity to once again work with Kevin Brockman.  He is an incredible leader who brings out the best in people, creates successful teams and garners impactful results. I look forward to starting this new chapter in January.”

Arancio worked for the Walt Disney Co. for 21 years. Most recently, as SVP of communications for ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios, she was responsible for all strategic corporate communication efforts, consumer press campaigns, awards outreach and talent relations for the two business units. During her tenure in this position, she shaped critical strategy and creative consumer campaigns for “The Bachelor” franchise, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “A Million Little Things,” “The Conners,” and “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” among others. She also helped launch the No. 1 comedy of 2018, “Roseanne”; “The Good Doctor”; and a successful relaunch of “American Idol.”

WarnerMedia’s truTV Readies First Theatrical Release

WarnerMedia’s truTV has announced the theatrical release date for its first-ever feature-length film, Impractical Jokers: The Movie, directed by Chris Henchy (Daddy’s Home, Eastbound & Down) and produced by “Funny or Die.”

Opening in select theaters nationwide on Feb. 21, 2020, the film stars James Murray, Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, and Sal Vulcano, also known as the comedy troupe, The Tenderloins.

The film is an extension of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers” series, currently in its eighth season and ranking as a top three original cable comedy, according to WarnerMedia.

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The film will feature The Tenderloins playing themselves in a fictional story of a humiliating high school mishap from the early nineties. Featuring appearances from Paula Abdul, Jaden Smith, and Joey Fatone, the movie combines the fictional narrative with real life footage of over-the-top punishments and callbacks to classic moments from the series. Once the Impractical Jokers hit the road, they compete in hidden camera challenges for the chance to turn back the clock and find redemption.

“One can never have enough Impractical Jokers in their life and we’ve finally been given the chance to deliver on that,” Brett Weitz, GM for TNT, TBS, & truTV, said in a statement.“As we continue to build upon their ever growing brand, the film will celebrate all of the hijinks and antics these guys are known for but with bigger twists than we can achieve in a 30-minute format.”

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The film is produced by Gatto, Murray, Quinn, Vulcano, Henchy, and Funny Or Die’s Jim Ziegler and Buddy Enright. Executive producers include Jack Rovner and Funny Or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell.

New episodes of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers” return on Jan. 30, 2020 at 10:00pm ET/PT. The series’ 200th episode airs on Feb. 13 and is set in Los Angeles, a first for the series.

WarnerMedia, Xandr to Host First Mixed Media Advertising Upfront

WarnerMedia and Xandr, both part of AT&T, announced they will join together for the first time on the Upfront stage on May 13, 2020. This inaugural event will showcase the future of advertising capabilities in the digital era.

For example, AT&T has reportedly begun running ads during pauses in VOD and on-demand video consumption.

The WarnerMedia and Xandr Upfront will take place at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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After more than a year of collaboration, launching new and enhanced products with dozens of advertising case studies, WarnerMedia and Xandr will disclose what they contend are new advertising opportunities when assembling HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner brands and content with new technology.

“May 13 will be a culmination of two years of commitment, collaboration and innovation with our partners at Xandr to make superlative advertising solutions available in market today, alongside premium content that matters to audiences globally,” Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer, WarnerMedia and president, WarnerMedia International Networks, said in a statement.

Launched in September 2018, Xandr encompasses all aspects of AT&T advertising & analytics businesses, including AT&T’s advanced TV business, AT&T AdWorks; AT&T’s data and analytics business; ATT.net and AppNexus.

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“We are at a pivotal moment in time in the advertising industry. In partnership with our colleagues at WarnerMedia, Xandr aims to not just make advertising better, but completely reinvent it,” said Brian Lesser, CEO, Xandr.

In 2019, both teams collaborated on strategies but featured two separate, complementary Upfront events. Building on what both groups accomplished in the past year, next year’s Upfront claims to not only highlight content coming to the WarnerMedia brands, but also offer tangible results through advertising solutions available currently and in the future, including the anticipated AVOD version of HBO Max, expected in 2021.

HBO Max Announces Stand-Up Comedy Specials

Pending subscription streaming video platform HBO Max has greenlit four new stand-up comedy specials.

The streamer, which launches in 2020, is teaming up with Tracy Morgan (“The Last O.G.”), John Early (Search Party), and rising stars Rose Matafeo, Edinburgh Comedy Award winner, and Ahir Shah, double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee.

“From legends to newcomers, this impressive slate of specials will complement the library of premium stand-up specials that HBO has become known for,” Suzanna Makkos, EVP of original programming, comedy and animation at HBO Max, said in a statement.

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Tracy Morgan returned to television in 2018 with “The Last O.G.” on Turner-owned TBS, which debuted as cable’s #1 new comedy. The series’ sophomore season ranks among the top 10 cable comedies of 2019 and a third season is due to premiere on TBS in 2020.

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Morgen, a multiple Emmy nominee, is no stranger to stand-up specials. His most recent special, “Staying Alive”, explores his new take on life, his career, and mortality. Morgan recently announced his 2020 comedy tour, “No Disrespect”, and will executive produce this special for HBO Max.

John Early is best known for his role as Elliot in the TBS series, “Search Party”. Following sold out runs of his live show, “John Early: Now More Than Ever”, in New York and Los Angeles, this will be Early’s first one-hour television special showcasing his talent in stand-up, characters, and cover song performances.

Rose Matafeo

Rose Matafeo is a comedian and actress whose show, “Horndog” won Best Show at the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2018. A whirlwind of stand-up, sketch and mid-20s angst, “Horndog” has enjoyed sell-out performances around the world. Her first-ever comedy special is a continuation of her partnership with HBO Max following the recently announced “Starstruck, a brand new comedy series written, created by and starring Matafeo.

Ahir Shah has had sold-out runs in London’s West End, as well as successful U.K. and international tours, including runs at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.

He is currently on tour with his critically acclaimed new stand-up show Dots, which made best of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe lists including The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman.

HBO Max recently announced a partnership with Conan O’Brien and Team Coco to bring stand-up specials to the streamer. O’Brien will host two specials that feature short sets from multiple up-and-coming comics while also curating hour-long sets from three comedians. In addition to those five specials, HBO Max has purchased the rights to a one-hour special from comedian James Veitch, also produced by Team Coco.

‘Friends’ Props and Costumes to be Auctioned for Charity to Celebrate the Series’ 25th Anniversary

As part of the 25th anniversary for former NBC sitcom, “Friends,” Warner Bros. Television for the first time is putting up for bid to the public props, costumes, studio-edition authorized reproductions, set decorations and production material from the series.

Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman (“Grace and Frankie”), “Friends” helped make Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer household names. The show aired in primetime from Sept. 22, 1994 to May 6, 2004.

The show has been a home media retail juggernaut, in addition to generating lucrative runs in syndication and streaming video. WarnerMedia reportedly paid $425 million to land the show for its pending HBO Max service, beginning in 2020.

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Proceeds from the auction will benefit The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.

Bidding begins on Dec. 3 and runs until Dec. 17. Bidders who sign up for the auction are also eligible to win a production script. Complete contest rules can be found at PropStore.com/FRIENDS. Each item comes with a Warner Bros. Certificate of Authenticity.

Warner is working with film and TV memorabilia company Prop Store, which will offer more than 100 auction lots spanning all 10 seasons of “Friends,” straight from the Warner Bros. Archive.

“It’s an honor to be able to bring some amazing original pieces to the fans, such as Joey’s (LeBlanc) original Hugsy doll,” Brandon Alinger, COO of Prop Store, said in a statement. “We’re also happy to offer detailed studio-edition reproductions, including the Holiday Armadillo costume, Central Perk couch and 10 copies of Monica’s (Cox) peephole door frame, straight from the Warner Bros. Props department.”

Auction items include:

Numbered, limited edition silkscreen coffee cup modeled after the signature image featured on the wall of Central Perk. The print is signed by artist Burton Morris and includes a signed “Friends” catalog, Est. $3,000.

Studio-edition authorized reproduction of Ross Geller’s (Schwimmer) Holiday Armadillo costume, Est. $10,000-15,000.

Studio-edition authorized reproduction of Central Perk orange couch, Est. $6,000-8,000.

Joey Tribbiani and Chandler Bing’s (Perry) wood canoe and two paddles, Est. $4,000-6,000.

Rachel Green’s (Aniston) Hawaiian print dress, Est. $3,000-5,000.

Studio-edition authorized reproduction of door picture frame, Est. $2,000-3,000.

Studio-edition authorized reproduction of turkey with sunglasses, fez and stand, Est. $2,000-3,000.

Ursula Buffay’s (Kudrow) “Buffay The Vampire Layer” VHS tape, Est. $1,500-2,500. Joey’s bedtime penguin pal Hugsy, Est. $1,000-1,500. Monica and Chandler wedding invitation set, Est. $1,000-1,500.

A selection of lots will be available to view in the “Friends” Boston Pop-Up starting on Nov. 21.

HBO Streaming Aspiring Directorial Pilots

Taking an earlier page from Amazon Studios, HBO has begun streaming directorial shorts from aspiring directors on its SVOD platform HBO Now and TVOD service HBO Go.

HBO Access Directing Fellowship selects three-to-four fellows to participate in a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent. The program includes a series of master classes, which lead into the production of pilots.

Delivered by industry professionals both internal and external to HBO, the classes cover a variety of subjects including creative topics such as story and character, as well as the technical aspects of production and post.

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Upon completion of the course, the fellows are given a budget and crew to direct a short presentation allowing them full immersion in a true industry production.

HBO said it would continue to support the directors by screening the films for the entertainment community and offering shadowing opportunities on HBO series.

Pilots include:

HALFWAY | Run Time: 16:21
Written & Created by Katherine Craft
Directed by Carey Williams

Recently released from prison, Krystal must navigate the new rules and strong personalities of her local Christian halfway house if she has any hope of regaining custody of her estranged daughter.

 

 

UNIMUNDO 45 | Run Time: 13:38
Written & Created by Claudia Forestieri
Directed by Thembi Banks

When her parents threaten to self-deport, a jaded Latina news producer sheds her cynicism and becomes an activist — on live TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STERLING | Run Time: 20:12
Written & Created by Bryce Ahart & Stephanie McFarlane
Directed by Ryan Zaragoza

A small West Texas town struggles to pick up the pieces after a devastating mass shooting at their local high school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Director bios:

Carey Williams — Recently hailed by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, Williams is currently in pre-production on his first feature, R#J, with Timur Bekmambetov, a participant in the NBC Emerging Directors Program and has set up the feature version of his award-winning short film, “Emergency.”

Thembi Banks — Born in Harlem New York, Banks is an award-winning writer/director who received her MFA from USC’s Film & TV Production program. Banks was a 2017 directing fellow at Film Independent’s Project Involve, she was also a 2018 HBO Access Directing Fellow, a 2019 Ryan Murphy Half Initiative Directing Fellow and a participant in Powder Keg’s inaugural female directing program, created by Paul Feig.

She will be making her feature film directorial debut with Young. Wild. Free written by Juel Taylor in 2020 and is currently writing a feature for Universal Studios with Malcolm D. Lee attached to produce and direct. Her most recent television directing credit is on Issa Rae’s show “Insecure.”

Ryan Zaragoza — Zaragoza is a writer/director originally from El Paso, Texas. He’s an alumni of Ryan Murphy’s HALF Initiative, WBTV Director’s Program, and HBO Access, where he directed Sterling, which premiered at SXSW. Zaragoza is currently directing an episode of “All American” season 2, and is slated to direct an episode of “Animal Kingdom” in early 2020.

Writer bios:

Claudia Forestieri is a bilingual, biracial TV writer of Dominican-Italian descent who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami. Her storytelling career began in the world of news where she served as a reporter and producer for Telemundo stations in Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

She broke into TV writing in 2017 and has since staffed on Freeform’s “Good Trouble” and Netflix’s “Selena: The Series.”

Katherine Craft is a playwright, screenwriter, and Texas native. She’s the creator of “Kappa Crypto,” a Snap Original series, currently streaming on Snapchat. She’s also the founder of Conspire Theatre, a prison theater program that worked with women during and post-incarceration. Her short films have played in the Tribeca Film Festival, PBS Online Film Festival, and the LA Asian Pacific American Film Festival, among others.

Bryce Ahart and Stephanie McFarlane are both alums of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where they each graduated Cum Laude from the Dramatic Writing Department. After completing the 2017–2018 HBO Access Writer’s Fellowship, they went on to staff on The CW’s “Legacies.” Most recently, their pilot, “Sterling,” premiered at SXSW and is currently continuing the festival circuit.

WarnerMedia, Comcast’s Sky Extend Content Distribution Deal

HBO Max may be the future, but distribution across existing and competing platforms overseas is just as important.

WarnerMedia has extended a distribution agreement with Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky in Europe.

First established in 2010, the new agreement includes distribution through HBO of Warner Bros. movies, Cartoon Network and Boomerang episodic programming.

Content has included “Watchmen,” “Succession” and “Big Little Lies,” in addition to Sky originals such as “Patrick Melrose,” “Babylon Berlin” and “Gomorrah.”

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“Our partnership with HBO, and now Warner Media, has never been stronger as Sky continues to thrive as Europe’s leading direct-to-consumer media and entertainment business,” Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said in a statement. “Customers love our Sky original productions and together, Sky Studios and HBO Max will bring them more unique stories that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Sky and WarnerMedia also extended co-production deals with Sky Studios and HBO Max working together on original content.

Co-production Chernobyl garnered 10 Primetime Emmys, and latest co-production “Catherine the Great,” with Helen Mirren, received critical acclaim following its U.K. broadcast debut this month.

“We are thrilled to find new ways to deepen our longstanding relationship with Sky, and bring a fresh dimension to the great content we continue to bring to consumers,” said Jeffrey Schlesinger, president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, in a statement.

‘Rick and Morty’ Coming to HBO Max

WarnerMedia’s pending SVOD service HBO Max has secured streaming rights to Adult Swim’s animated series “Rick and Morty” in the United States.

All three seasons of “Rick and Morty” that have aired to date will be available to viewers on the service when HBO Max launches in the U.S. in May 2020. Future seasons of “Rick and Morty” will continue to premiere on Adult Swim before streaming on HBO Max. The fourth season premieres on Adult Swim and in several countries on Nov. 10.

The series is the winner of 2018’s Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.

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“‘Rick and Morty’ exploded onto the scene in 2013 and quickly drew a legion of rabid followers from both critics and young fans,” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, and president of TBS, TNT, truTV. “The jokes come fast and frenetically in a smart comedy concoction we are so happy to deliver on HBO Max.”

The series follows a sociopathic genius scientist who drags his inherently timid grandson on insanely dangerous adventures across the universe. Rick Sanchez is living with his daughter Beth’s family and constantly bringing her, his son-in-law Jerry, granddaughter Summer, and grandson Morty into intergalactic escapades.

Ridley Scott Sci-Fi Series ‘Raised by Wolves’ to Premiere on HBO Max

“Raised by Wolves,” a serialized sci-fi series from Ridley Scott, will premiere on WarnerMedia’s SVOD series HBO Max, launching in May 2020 at $14.99 a month.

The serialized sci-fi series is executive produced and directed by Scott (The MartianBlade RunnerAlien: Covenant). Writer Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) created the 10-episode series and serves as showrunner and writer for the project, which recently wrapped production in Cape Town, South Africa. The series centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.

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“As we strive to set a high creative bar for HBO Max, there’s no better person to set that bar than Ridley Scott as he delivers his first season of yet another incredible vision realized,” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, and president of TBS, TNT, and truTV.

“The breathtaking worlds, compelling characters and intricate storylines that Ridley, Aaron and team have created for this project are mesmerizing,” added Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max.