Since 2015, Netflix subscribers have been able to rest easy knowing that, whenever streaming media left them feeling stuck in second gear, they could always count on the cast of Friends to be there for them. And, judging from the approximately 54.3 million hours that Netflix subscribers spent with Joey, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, and Chandler in 2018, it’s safe to say that they’re there for them, too. According to Nielsen’s estimates (Netflix does not release comprehensive viewing numbers), The Office and Friends were the two most popular shows on Netflix in 2018, and both of these shows are scheduled to leave in the very near future.
NBCUniversal has already made clear its plans to reclaim The Office in 2021, just after the launch of its streaming service next year. And WarnerMedia has now revealed that after 2019, Friends fans will have to pony up for their new service, HBO Max, in order to get the maximum, which is to say only, Friends streaming experience. HBO Max will also draw on film and television from the maximally massive Warner Bros., New Line, and Turner libraries. Plus, WarnerMedia has plans to further push entertainment levels to the max with its own original programming, including updates of Dune and Gremlins. No official price for the service has been announced, but the Wall Street Journal suggests it could be $16–17 a month.
The media landscape is certain to get more fragmented and more expensive as conglomerates hoard their intellectual property with increasing jealousy, drawing and redrawing their lines in the sand. If the future proposed by these recent developments tells us anything it’s that, for consumers, the promise of having control over your media is a thing in the past. For Friends fanatics or those who simply just never want to decide what to watch ever again, perhaps consider abandoning streaming platforms altogether. Consider Friends: The Complete Series DVD box-set: It will be there for you regardless if your job’s a joke, you’re broke, or your love life’s D.O.A.