In 2020, Netflix’s contract with the NBC cult show, The Office, will expire. Unfortunately for fans, this will mark the workplace comedy’s departure from the streaming platform. Starting in 2021, NBCUniversal will have exclusive streaming rights for all nine seasons of The Office. In exchange for these rights, NBCU will pay a hefty $100 million per year, outbidding Netflix in an auction held by Producers Universal Television. Sources described the process as “arms length,” meaning that potential bidders were distanced from one another in order to ensure a fair auction.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, sources also said that Universal explored a number of deals pertaining to The Office. One of these deals would have allowed both Universal and Netflix to share domestic streaming rights for the series.
Bonnie Hammer, a chairman of NBCUniversal DTC and digital enterprises, made the following statement on Tuesday: “The Office has become a staple of pop culture and is a rare gem whose relevance continues to grow at a time when fans have more entertainment choices than ever before. We can’t wait to welcome the gang from Dunder Mifflin to NBCUniversal’s new streaming service.”
NBCU’s move to secure exclusive streaming rights for The Office is consistent with the recent decision-making of other multiple media giants. Comcast, WarnerMedia and Disney are among the industry behemoths to launch streaming services. In the process, such corporations have sought additional library programming in order to boost their inventory. This is similar to Netflix’s beginnings as a subscription streaming service which built a foundation on offering viewers the chance to watch licensed films and TV series.
The decision to exclusively stream The Office starting in 2021 rids NBCU of a large financial opportunity. The platform could have followed in Warner Bros. shoes and licensed The Office to Netflix for a large fee. Warner Bros. did this last year, extending Netflix’s deal for the streaming rights of Friends for a year. This move cost Netflix a whopping $100 million. Given that WarnerMedia’s streaming service is projected to launch later this year, Friends will also make a likely exit from Netflix. Kevin Reilly of WarnerMedia formerly told reporters that it was “not a good idea to share” television hits like Friends.
In response to NBCU’s procuring of The Office streaming rights, Netflix had this to say: “We’re sad that NBC has decided to take The Office back for its own streaming platform — but members can binge watch the show to their hearts’ content ad-free on Netflix until January 2021.”
The Office, which stars Steve Carell, John Krasinski and Mindy Kaling, is the number one show across all subscription video on demand services, according to NBCU. The comedy was streamed for over 52 billion minutes and was viewed almost twice as many times as the next most-viewed program on SVOD in April of this year.
UTV president Pearlena Igbokwe readily expressed her excitement over the streaming deal. “The Office is one of our most prized series, and we are thrilled it has found an exciting new home where generation after generation will continue to discover and rediscover Michael Scott’s most cringe-worthy moments, Jim and Pam’s will-they-or-won’t-they, and the incredible quirky ensemble that makes each episode a masterclass in comedy,” she said.
NBCUniversal’s streaming service will launch in 2020. The ad-supported platform will feature both TV and film franchises from both within and outside the company, alongside new original projects.