It’s like the streaming TV business’ version of that old will-they-or-won’t-they sitcom trope. Is Netflix in danger of losing The Office, the beloved workplace comedy series that ran on NBC for nine seasons — and which, several years after the final episode aired, still remains one of Netflix’s top properties? Or will Netflix pay a handsome fee to keep it around, a la the multi-million dollar deal the streamer recently struck to keep Friends for at least another year?
The wildcard here is the forthcoming Netflix rival being launched by the parent company of NBC Entertainment, which would presumably want to bring a property as hot as The Office back into its fold.
That may indeed happen down the line — but, thankfully, it won’t anytime soon. That’s according to NBC Entertainment’s co-chairmen, who during the annual conference of the National Association of Television Program Executives this week in Miami Beach spoke a bit cryptically about the matter. But they still made it clear The Office is safe on Netflix for the time being.
“The Office has been on Netflix for 10 years,” said NBC Entertainment co-chairman George Cheeks, “and it’s still in their top five. The licensing deal is up in a couple years, (and) it will be interesting to see where it goes.” He went on to note that other NBC properties that stream on the various streaming platforms will be brought onto NBC’s own upstart series after studying them all on a case-by-case basis, with pricing being an important factor. Which presumably means, depending on the show, NBC may be fine with a fat Friends-style check as opposed to settling for bringing a hit show back onto their own new service as an exclusive. Regardless, NBC isn’t committing to a hard-and-fast stance on The Office. For now.
Cheeks also added some more thoughts about his company’s digital-focused future: “The company has been very thoughtful about how we go into the market. Netflix-chasing is not a strategy. All of these major media companies approaching this — it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy.”
Hulu is more along the lines of the model NBC is apparently envisioning for its service. Meaning, things like different pricing tiers, with ads and without.
Back to The Office and Netflix, though. How do you square the comments above with an interview that NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke recently gave to Deadline, in which he confidently pronounced that it’s a “safe assumption” his media conglomerate would try to reclaim titles like The Office once the various licensing deals lapse? That may be a bit of talking things up at this point to drive up the price so that NBC can secure an even sweeter deal from Netflix in the future. Or NBC may indeed be playing a little coy and fully intends to wrench control of The Office back from Netflix in a couple of years’ time.
Either way, our prediction from a few months ago still stands. The next Friends-style scramble at Netflix will most assuredly be over a certain mockumentary about a paper supply company in Pennsylvania, and it will be very interesting to watch it play out, to say the least.