NBC says it may eventually pull ‘The Office’ off Netflix to fuel its own streaming service

When Netflix first launched its streaming platform over a decade ago, it used a big catalog of traditional TV shows to kickstart viewership. Now, as more media giants plan to launch their own streaming competitors, Netflix is in jeopardy of losing some of its most popular shows.

NBCUniversal announced Monday that it plans to launch its own ad-supported streaming service in 2020 that would be free to users who already subscribe to traditional pay TV through companies like Comcast and Sky. The service could include popular NBC TV shows and Universal movies, as well as original content.

Users who don’t already have pay TV will be able to subscribe to the service for a monthly fee around $10 a month, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited an anonymous source familiar with the matter.

READ MORE: Hulu gained on Netflix in the US during a year of massive user growth, but there’s a big challenge it will have to overcome in 2019 to keep up the pace

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told the Journal that the company may consider moving “The Office” from Netflix to the new streaming service once the licensing agreement expires in 2021. NBC declined to comment further to Business Insider.

That’s bad news for Netflix because “The Office” is its most popular show, according to data from analytics firm Jumpshot provided to Business Insider. And NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is its third most popular show.

The chart below shows the 10 most popular shows on Netflix of 2018, courtesy of Jumpshot, which “tracks five billion actions a day across 100 million devices to deliver insights into online consumer behavior”:

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Netflix’s second most popular show, the Warner Bros.-owned “Friends,” is safe on Netflix — for now. The hit 1990s sitcom will remain on the service through 2019, but Netflix and AT&T, which bought Time Warner last year, are finalizing a deal to keep “Friends” on Netflix while also allowing AT&T the ability to put the show on its own platform that is expected to launch this year.

Netflix is paying up to $100 million for “Friends,” according to The New York Times, significantly more than the $30 million it was paying per year for the rights.

A similar scenario could happen with “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and more NBC shows. Other NBC shows in Netflix’s top 50, according to Jumpshot, included “The Good Place” and “The West Wing.” Would Netflix drop so much money for multiple shows when it’s already investing heavily in original content? 85% of new spending in 2018 went toward originals.

Netflix anticipated the competition, so it will likely continue to focus on original programming over licensing agreements.

“The way we look at this long term is that our competitors will want that content on their own services,” Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos said during an earnings call in July. “That was a bet we’ve made a long time ago when we got into original programming.”

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