Big Bets and Bigger Feuds: Streaming Wars Heat Up

THE OFFICE -- Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly, and Steve Carell as Michael Scott-- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

Netflix used to be the place to go to sell a TV show. NBC executives watched a cut of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and loved it. They also recognized the show could not last on broadcast TV. The humor too dark, the story too edgy, the chances for syndication were nil. Yet, they did not want to upset creator Tina Fey. So they went to Netflix and sold the show and got it an automatic season two renewal.

That pass by NBC gave Netflix its first taste of sitcom success. It also helped push them further into the original programming, where they have had more success than most other platforms. But their success is still squarely built on libraries of shows they acquired from other production companies. And that could present a problem.

New Year No Friends

“What a nice New Years present, Netflix!” People lamented across Facebook and Twitter.  On the Friends page, it was announced that the popular 90s sitcom would be leaving the streaming service on January 1, 2019. It was a controversy like none they had ever encountered before. Subscribers had threatened to leave the service whenever their favorite sitcom did.

Not wanting to take a chance, Netflix re-upped its contract with WarnerMedia for approximately $100 million. For one year. Just over $273,000 a day for a show that has been off the air since Weapons of Mass Destruction was what worried most people.

But Friends is a cornerstone of the Netflix programming block, such as it were. What will the do without it in 2020? That may not be a worry, at least not at first. WarnerMedia executives are open t sharing the assets for a while, but no one knows for how long.

Out Of Office

While the Friends may hang out for a bit longer, our favorite Office mates are likely to be out after 2021. Universal held an auction to see what streaming platform would pay up the most money for the hit NBC series. Turns out NBCU really wanted the show for their soon-to-be-launched streaming service.

By whatever measurement Netflix uses to determine their most popular shows, The Office is at the top of the heap. So important is the show that EVERY streaming service was after it. This was bound to be a big money deal. NBCU will be paying the same $100 million per year for Pam and Jim etc that Netflix paid to keep Ross and Rachel on their service. But this isn’t even the biggest deal for a streaming service…

Mouse Eats Fox

$71 billion dollars. That was the cost for Disney to eat fellow movie and television conglomerate 20th Century Fox. Most people had their eyes on the Marvel characters that Fox controlled, like The X-Men and Deadpool. Which would make sense, Marvel is the crown jewel in Mickey’s massive crown.

But the Mouse House tipped their hand when they trotted out the 30-year-old animated sitcom, The Simpsons, as the piece de la resistance for their streaming service. The Simpsons. Not the Marvel shows that will feature the A-list talent from The Avengers and MCU. Not even Family Guy which Disney now owns as well. The Simpsons. What is so special about the yellow family that they are the crown jewel for Disney+ (the upcoming streaming service)?

The answer lies in money. With more than 600 episodes already produced, The Simpsons will give them a nice collection to launch with right away. The iconic show has already been passed from one generation to another, and it is likely that it will be passed to another generation and so on.

Sudsy Matters

Speaking of shows that are passed from one generation to the next, what about soap operas? With binging now the main way people watch TV, is it time to bring back soap operas? Disney seems to be grappling with that question the most. They have yet to launch a talk show that resonates with the crowd the same way All My Children and One Life To Live did.

At the time of the cancellations, the reasoning for cutting the iconic shows was the production costs. However, with Disney having 2 (actually 3) streaming services, bringing back the soaps might be a lifesaver for them. Hulu, now under Disney’s control, is the natural home for AMC and OLTL. Previous versions have already appeared there and sudsy dramas thrive on the platform. According to several sources at the Disney Upfronts last month, the biggest decision right now is how/when to reboot the shows.

CBS has a plethora of soaps it could reboot for All Access but they have resisted the siren song thus far, Mostly because it became an ownership issue and Proctor and Gamble have shown no interest in getting back into the soap opera game.

NBC has expressed interest in soaps for their streaming service but there is no word if they want a reboot or to launch a new show.