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Netflix maintains high-priced relationship with ‘Friends’

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2002

    The cast members, Matthew Perry, from left, Courteney Cox Arquettte, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc of the television show “Friends,” arrive at New York’s Rockefeller Center for NBC’s 75th Anniversary event.

SAN FRANCISCO >> Netflix will still be there for fans of the old TV series “Friends,” but maintaining the relationship will come at a steep price.

The video streaming service paid $100 million to keep showing “Friends” in the U.S. through 2019, according to a report in the New York Times . That’s more than triple the $30 million a year Netflix had been paying for the long-running TV series about six 20-something friends in New York. The report cited two unidentified people with direct knowledge of Netflix’s deal with the series’ rights holder, AT&T.

Netflix tweeted that it will continue showing “Friends,” but didn’t disclose financial details. The Los Gatos, California, company declined further comment today.

Netflix’s willingness to pay so much for a series that ended in 2004 is the latest sign of intensifying competition in video streaming.

Besides current rivals such as Hulu and Amazon, Netflix is also facing a significant threat next year when Walt Disney Co. plans to roll out a video streaming service featuring its popular movies and TV shows. As part of its move into streaming, Disney will be pulling much of the entertainment that it has licensed to Netflix for years.

That setback may have figured into Netflix’s calculations about how much “Friends” is worth to its service. But Netflix is still spending far more on original programming such as “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” to distinguish itself from its rivals. The strategy has forced Netflix to take on billions of dollars in debt to pay for the programming, but it has helped the company build the world’s largest video streaming service with 137 million subscribers.

AT&T also is planning to offer a video streaming service, and there is nothing in its deal with Netflix that prevents it from featuring “Friends” on that service beginning in 2020, according to the Times.

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