On Tuesday, NBCUniversal announced it had won back the streaming rights to the beloved sitcom “The Office.” The firm noted that the program will air exclusively on its branded subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platform two years from now. As a result, Netflix will stop streaming the workplace comedy in January 2021.
While Netflix hosts a diverse range of original movies and TV shows, losing “The Office” is a major blow. Despite the series’ age, it is reportedly one of the platform’s signature offerings. Without it, the service’s market position is much less secure.
How NBC Reclaimed ‘The Office’
From 2005 to 2012, “The Office” (adapted from a British series of the same name) was a mainstay of NBC’s primetime comedy lineup. Though never a ratings heavyweight, the program attracted a dedicated following and was a critical success. However, the show became a generational touchstone by being featured on digital video services like Hulu, iTunes, and Netflix.
Because of its enduring popularity, the program’s exclusive streaming rights fetched a pretty penny. According to Variety, Netflix bid $90 million to keep the esteemed comedy in its streaming library. However, NBCUniversal won the right to exclusively host the program for five years starting in 2021 for $100 million (for a whopping total of $500M).
By reclaiming its old property, NBC has made its forthcoming streaming service much more appealing to consumers. The Verge reports Netflix subscribers spent 52 billion minutes watching “The Office” in 2018 alone. As such, it represented three percent of the platform’s total consumed content last year.
NBCUniversal currently hosts many of its TV shows on Hulu, of which it owns 33 percent. However, the conglomerate announced it would be launching its own SVOD service in January. In retrospect, the corporation likely created its impending streaming content platform to deal with Disney’s takeover of Hulu, which happened in May.
Netflix Under Fire
By taking “The Office” back, NBCUniversal has made Netflix’s encroaching content crisis even worse.
In December 2018, the streaming giant paid $100 million to hold onto the rights to “Friends” through 2019. Though the series went off the air in 2004, it’s also reportedly one of the platform’s most watched shows. Unfortunately, its owner, WarnerMedia, is expected to move the program to its own SVOD, which launches in 2020.
Furthermore, Netflix is losing access to Disney content this winter because the House of Mouse is launching an SVOD platform in November. Consequently, the service will no longer host the Marvel Studios films and streaming shows, any movie made by Pixar, or the “Star Wars” saga.
Vox also noted Disney, NBCUniversal, and WarnerMedia could further weaken Netflix’s position by migrating popular shows they own like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Supernatural,” to their respective SVOD platforms.
Additionally, Apple TV+ and short video startup Quibi will make the SVOD space even more competitive when they get up and running in the coming months. Both platforms will offer a host of exclusive content by big-name creators at launch.
Earlier this year, Netflix supplanted broadcast television as the most popular video distribution medium in the United States. But the increased stratification of the streaming video landscape means its dominance is at risk.
With its array of critically-acclaimed original programming, Netflix will continue to be a significant streaming player indefinitely. However, since the platform is running out of legacy media, many of its 58 million American subscribers might look elsewhere for video entertainment.