Attention, Friends fans: If you find yourself lucky enough to have some time off from work today, perhaps because of New Year’s, you might want to spend some of that downtime streaming Friends on Netflix — because today is your last chance to do so.
After today, the hit NBC sitcom will disappear from the streamer ahead of its addition to HBO’s forthcoming new service HBO Max starting in May. This marks a milestone moment in the ongoing so-called Streaming Wars, since what had once been regarded as the second most-streamed series in the US as recently as 2018 is leaving the most prominent streaming service for a new upstart rival. Moreover, between Friends‘ leaving Netflix on January 1 and reappearing on HBO Max in the spring, you actually won’t be able to stream it — well, anywhere.
This is what I was trying to get at, in a piece I wrote around this time last year about DVDs. This is where super-fans’ hoarding of those DVD box sets of whole seasons of the show will come in handy. If you’ve still got those, of course, you’re good. Everyone else? Well, your options are few. You can rent or buy outright individual episodes or seasons of Friends from the expected sources, like Amazon and iTunes — with the latter currently offering the entire series, all 10 seasons, to buy for $139.99.
The deal HBO Max’s parent company WarnerMedia reached included paying $100 million for the exclusive rights to stream Friends for 12 months. It was a massive score by HBO Max to land the show, which has also been insanely popular across the pond. According to figures from British broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, twice as many people in 2018 watched the show on Netflix than anything else on the streamer.
This is the beginning of a great diaspora of content. If you want to keep streaming Friends, you’ll need to pay $14.99 to HBO Max. Similarly, other shows will be peeling off Netflix soon, like The Office. You’ve got another year, and then it’s headed to Comcast’s still not-yet-launched Peacock streaming service. Seinfeld, meanwhile, will be added to Netflix in 2021. Keeping track of where our favorite shows have gone is about to become a full-time profession.