Top 19 Media Trends of 2019: Bidding War for Classic TV Hits

Friends Final Episode Streaming Wars
Courtesy of NBC

The rights holders to some of TV’s biggest hit series set themselves up in 2019 to cash out big time as media companies committed enormous sums to license properties that will eventually help their streaming services stand out.

First up was “The Office a pillar of Netflix’s library — which NBCUniversal in June committed to paying $500 million for the streaming rights to (it will be housed on Peacock in 2021). Just a few weeks later, WarnerMedia secured the rights to “Friends another Netflix staple — for a cool $425 million (“Friends” will be available on HBO Max in 2020). 

Three more big deals were announced in September and October, solidifying 2019 as the year of the nine-figure TV streaming rights deal. 

Netflix inked a $500 million pact to nab “Seinfeld” from Hulu in 2021 for five years. To further bulk up the forthcoming HBO Max, WarnerMedia committed about $600 million for the rights to “The Big Bang Theory” and over $500 million for the streaming rights to “South Park.”

While these deal values may seem exorbitant, the value of popular licensed TV shows to a streaming library shouldn’t be understated. 

When U.S. respondents were asked about their favorite shows on Netflix, 48 of the 100 most-cited titles were acquired titles, and 46 were originals, according to an October 2019 report by MoffettNathanson. For Prime Video, 51 were acquired, while just 20 were originals.

It’s no wonder why streaming execs are willing to bet large chunks of their budgets on licensing pacts, and these survey figures hint that more nine-figure deals are on the horizon. Keep an eye on successful series including “The Walking Dead” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to be among the shows that will attract bidders in 2020.