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First The Office and now Friends – Netflix is facing a classic content crisis

Last month’s bombshell that The Office would be departing from the Netflix library in 2021 sent a tremor through the streaming world. Now, arguably, an even more important entry into the sitcom Hall of Fame is ditching the platform for pastures new.

If you’re a US-based Netflix subscriber, from 2020, Friends will no longer ‘be there for you, when the rain starts to fall’ and all you want to do watch reruns and eat chocolate chip cookies.

A new HBO Max streaming service in the United States will be the exclusive home for all 236 episodes of the classic 90s comedy about six Manhattan pals who loved, lost and laughed their way into the hearts of a generation.

And that’s not the only thing on the agenda for fans of must-see 1990s telly. The New HBO Max service, which will launch commercially next spring, has nabbed The Fresh Prince of Bel Air too. Pretty Little Liars is also on board, as well as a new DC entertainment series called Batwoman. Katy Keene, a spin off of Riverdale is also along for the rise.

Related: How to find 4K HDR content on Netflix

So what is HBO Max? Well it brings together a massive range of content from the entire Warner Media portfolio. That means HBO, Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more, Warner revealed in a press release today.

It’ll exist separately to the current HBO Go and HBO Now streaming platforms, but will fold in all of that great content. HBO Max will also have original content including an animated Gremlins series based upon the original movie.

So what does all this mean for Netflix? Last month when it emerged The Office would be going to NBC’s own streaming platform in 2021, Vox reported re-runs accounted for a staggering 7% of all Netflix streams in the United States. That report also mentioned Friends as accounting for 4% of all Netflix streams, for which the company paid Warner $100m to access in 2019.

That, according to the data from Jumpshot, means the two most popular shows on Netflix, (as of November 2018) are leaving the platform. The third most popular? That’s Parks and Recreation, which is also owned by NBC and could be re-homed soon.

Considering the last remaining Disney/Marvel/Lucasfilm content is also heading for the Disney Plus service in the near future, the streaming leader is facing a classic content crisis.

Can the Netflix Originals step-up with truly world class programming people want to watch again and again? So far, there’s been little evidence to suggest Netflix can reliably produce content like Friends people will still be watching in a quarter of a century.

For what it’s worth, it’s unlikely the HBO Max platform will affect Netflix’s rights to stream Friends in the UK. Breathe easy, folks.

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