Back in January, NBCUniversal announced plans to launch their own streaming service in 2020. That's great news if you own stock in Comcast, but it's pretty devastating if you're Netflix or a fan of The Office.
The new service will likely result in Netflix losing The Office from its library, along with licensing deals for other popular NBC comedies, like Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock.
Why does this new service mean Netflix is (possibly) losing The Office?
While there is an NBC app right now where cable subscribers can watch their programming, this new service would also offer ad-supported streaming on a subscription basis to cord-cutters for $12 a month. Since the streaming field is so competitive these days with big players like Netflix and Hulu in the mix, the fledgling app would likely need some tried-and-true properties to lure people in.
And there are few shows more beloved and more widely binged than The Office.
It remains one of the most popular titles on Netflix right now. Despite having a ton of original content, the Wall Street Journal reports that the majority of viewer minutes are spent on "nonoriginal 'library programming'" — around 72 percent. Two of the 10 most popular shows on Netflix belong to NBCUniversal: The Office and Parks and Recreation. In fact, according to Recode, The Office alone accounts for 7 percent of all views on the platform, and nearly 20 percent of minutes watched in October 2018 were reruns of NBCUniversal properties.
However, a Netflix spokesperson points out that minutes watched might not be the best way to gauge a program's popularity. "Looking at overall watch time skews towards titles with many seasons," they said. "Most Netflix originals have three or fewer seasons at most. It's why we focus on the individual shows or films members watch, as opposed to how much time they spend on one series versus another. And if you look at most watched titles, Netflix originals accounted for 10 out of 10 in the last quarter, or 21 out of the top 25."
Netflix almost lost Friends at the start of this year.
The potential loss of The Office won't be the first time the streaming platform has had to grapple with losing a popular program. They paid WarnerMedia around $100 million to keep exclusive rights to Friends for another year, triple what they initially paid. It's possible they could strike a similar deal for The Office, but that's a whole lot of money to retain one property, and NBCUniversal could see it as an essential property to help launch their new service.
The good news is, NBC hasn't decided for sure if it will withdraw The Office from Netflix. The Wall Street Journal reports they're still debating whether it makes sense to lose the licensing revenue in exchange for exclusive rights to their most beloved properties.
As a viewer of a lot of TV, I personally hope networks won't get too grabby with their content. As it stands, I'm already paying for Hulu with Live TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO. After a certain point, there won't have been any point in cord-cutting in the first place if you have to belong to 8 different subscription services to enjoy all the content you like.
The Office is currently streaming (for now at least) on Netflix.