The streaming wars — and in particular the launch of new Netflix rivals from companies like Apple, Disney, and AT&T — have led to plenty of speculation about what will happen to Netflix as it starts to face more well-heeled competition than ever.
Especially as the streaming landscape increasingly fractures, and companies like AT&T, via its new WarnerMedia service, pull their original content off of Netflix to host it on their own platforms, meaning Netflix presumably will soon have a giant hole where lots of third-party TV shows used to be.
Except, well, that’s not the case at all, according to Michael Nathanson, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC. “People are missing it,” he told a Bloomberg reporter in recent days about the reality facing Netflix. Why? One reason he thinks so many people are prematurely writing Netflix’s obituary is that many of the companies that own Netflix shows are locked into the terms of deals made years ago — deals that will keep many of those shows on Netflix for years, in some cases.
Consider: Of the 10 most popular third-party TV series on Netflix, at least eight will remain on the service for “years to come,” according to the Bloomberg report. It goes to list popular series like Grey’s Anatomy, The Walking Dead and CW shows like Riverdale and Supernatural, all of which will stay on Netflix for several years after they go off the air.
Bet you didn’t know this about Netflix, either. There’s a little-talked-about feature of Netflix’s arrangement with Disney that means — yes, Disney has very publicly declared its plan to ramp up its own Disney+ streaming service as an exclusive home for its movies and TV series. But per Bloomberg, every Disney movie released between January 2016 and December 2018 is actually going to go back onto Netflix starting around 2026 — even hit movies like Black Panther.
The elephants in the room whenever this discussion comes up are always Friends and The Office, two sitcoms from NBC’s glory days that remain among the most popular content on Netflix and which frequently inspire social media firestorms over the possibility of Netflix losing them. The lucrative licensing deals, which present a steady stream of cash for networks, are too enticing, it seems, to rush to cut off.
NBCUniversal, for example, may end up taking back The Office for its own forthcoming streaming service, but it’s also quietly talking to streamers like Netflix about license terms. Netflix’s current license for The Office expires in two years, at which point Bloomberg estimates Netflix will have at least 3,000 new programs in its library to serve up for more than 200 million worldwide subscribers.
“The loss of back titles will not kill Netflix or slow subscriber growth,” Nathanson told the publication. “It just forces them to make more original content.”