The Office, one of the most popular shows on Netflix, will stream exclusively on NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service beginning in 2021.
Netflix’s deal with NBCUniversal ends in 2020, giving NBCUniversal back the rights to stream its own show. The new arrangement makes The Office one of the biggest shows that NBCUniversal will have exclusively on its streaming service as it prepares to go head-to-head with numerous companies launching their own competing services.
It’s an important show to have, too. The Office is widely considered the most popular show on streaming services like Netflix, with more than 52 billion minutes watched in 2018, some 3 percent of all Netflix minutes watched in the US, according to The Wall Street Journal. Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, called it 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” in a press release announcing the move.
Netflix tweeted about the news shortly after it became public:
We're sad that NBC has decided to take The Office back for its own streaming platform — but members can binge watch the show to their hearts' content ad-free on Netflix until January 2021— Netflix US (@netflix) June 25, 2019
NBCUniversal executives have spoken about bringing The Office exclusively to its streaming service in the past. Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertisements and partnerships at NBCUniversal, told an audience at the company’s Upfront event May that NBCUniversal’s most adored series were “coming home,” according to Deadline. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke also said they would “try to reclaim titles like The Office once the service launches,” according to that report.
Having pop culture staples like The Office is going to become increasingly important as the streaming wars gear up. Disney decided to end a wide-ranging contract with Netflix early to ensure all of its releases were exclusive to its Disney+ service, which launches this November for $6.99 a month. WarnerMedia is expected to pull Friends, one of its most popular series, from Netflix once its streaming service launches in 2020, which is expected to cost between $16 and $17 a month. Netflix paid WarnerMedia $100 million to keep Friends throughout 2019, proving just how much value the series had for the platform.
Networks removing their content from Netflix is a facet of the streaming wars that Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, has spoken about many times before. Both Sarandos and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings view the competition from other companies as healthy, mentioning in investor calls that they’ve both pushed to add more original exclusive programming to Netflix to counter those companies who are pulling their titles out.
“Nothing that’s on Disney+ is going to be on Netflix and nothing that’s on Netflix is going to be on the [Comcast and WarnerMedia services],” Sarandos said at a recent media event, as reported by Deadline. “They’re going to be very unique.”
What that means for us: to access The Office and Friends, two popular shows that are extremely popular on Netflix, we’ll soon have to subscribe to two totally different new services.