Netflix may no longer be the place you go to chill and watch reruns like The Office.
As Hollywood’s biggest entertainment conglomerates prepare to launch their own streaming services later this year, discussions are under way to yank TV shows off Netflix to offer them exclusively on their own apps, the Wall Street Journal says.
In addition to The Office, other shows that may leave Netflix include reruns of the CW’s Riverdale, The Flash, and Black Lightning. CW is owned by WarnerMedia, which, along with Disney and Comcast/NBCUniversal, are gearing up to launch their own streaming apps.
The dissipation of non-original titles will be a major challenge for Netflix, seeing as 72% of viewing time on the platform, as of October, is on non-original shows, according to Nielsen data. Indeed, 8 of the 10 shows that Netflix users spent the most time watching in the U.S. last year were old hits such as NBCUniversal’s Parks and Recreation, WarnerMedia’s Friends, and Disney’s Grey’s Anatomy.
In a statement to the WSJ, Netflix said: “Looking at overall watch time skews towards titles with many seasons. 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 has been preparing for this turn of events for years, which is why the company has invested so heavily in original programming with shows such as Stranger Things and The Crown. This year, the company is plowing $12 billion into content, a portion of which will go toward original titles.
But while Netflix executives tout the popularity of those shows on earnings calls–and begin to actually release viewership data–statistics show that even with popular titles like Stranger Things, viewing is less sustained than on reruns. For example, when that show’s second season debuted in the fall of 2017, viewership spiked, but then the numbers dropped. Over a period of 12 months ending last July, Stranger Things was watched for 27.6 billion minutes, according to Nielsen. Watch time for The Office during that time was 45.8 billion minutes.
In recent years, companies have begun to pull back on their content licenses–none more aggressively than Disney, which ended its lucrative licensing deal with Netflix last year–but 2019 marks a real turning point, as three of Netflix’s biggest suppliers get ready to launch their own Netflix rivals.
This turn of events has already caused one headline-grabbing negotiation–over Friends, which Netflix paid $100 million to keep on its service in 2019 (about three times what it paid WarnerMedia for the original license).
Expect more such tussles to come. And more dollar signs, as Netflix does what it takes to keep its users happy.