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UPDATE: Following this story's publication, Netflix came out and announced Friends will stay on the streaming service "throughout 2019". That's obviously good news for fans of the classic sitcom, but it's still a little unclear what exactly happened. Was the show never scheduled to leave the service? Were negotiations ongoing and finalized after the original story broke? I don't know, but because of some of the factors outlined below, there's a strong possibility Friends will still leave at some point in the near future. So, enjoy it while you can by streaming as many episodes as possible over the next year.
Original story below...
The sitcom that has always claimed it will be there for us is soon going to not exactly be there for us, at least on Netflix. Ahead of the streaming giant's official announcement of coming and going projects, it's become clear that Friends is leaving Netflix in 2019, four years after finally entering the binge-friendly library. And it probably won't only be on a break, either. So what's the deal?
As it currently stands, Friends is set to leave Netflix on January 1, 2019, meaning fans have less than a month to continue using Netflix to fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Chandler Bing's rampant sarcasm. Not something the company is standing on street corners to convey, the date can be found within Friends' "Details" section of the main page.
Now that the "when" has been addressed, we can look at the probable reasons why Friends is making a grand exit from Netflix. It's almost definitely not an issue of popularity, since Friends remains one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, especially when it comes to modern-day television. Though Netflix may not release many detailed statistics about its traffic and viewer habits, it can be assumed that Friends gets streamed regularly.
As it usually happens when it comes to licensed TV series leaving Netflix these days, it's likely an issue of SVOD rights and money. It can be presumed that Netflix only signed a four-year deal with Warner Bros Television (and whatever other companies) to bring Friends to streaming for the first time. At the time, all involved might've thought that deal would be renewed, unaware of just how massive and expensive Netflix's original programming slate would get.
In the past year or two, Netflix has lost a ton of TV shows and movies that were originally brought in through various licensing deals with many major networks and studios. The streaming service currently has a slew of its own popular originals to entice subscribers with, and that lineup is getting bigger and more internationally diverse by the day. As such, Netflix doesn't need to rely on established hits like Friends as much, and isn't so pressured to foot the high costs for rights.
The other probable reason why Friends is leaving Netflix soon is the planned WarnerMedia streaming service that AT&T recently announced. That service is set to offer customers three subscription tiers, with two of the options offering "premium & popular" TV series (and movies) from Warner's vaults. Friends, of course, is one of those lucrative vault residents, and it's easy to theorize that the sitcom will be a big selling point for Warner to use in gaining potential subscribers who always want more Friends.
Very recently, Netflix execs seemed to be making similar decisions for what to do with its superhero series, since Marvel will be getting more streaming shows on the Disney+ standalone service next year. By similar decisions, I mean Netflix has cancelled Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil, with Jessica Jones and The Punisher thought to be next on the chopping block. If Matt Murdock can't even survive at Netflix, Friends' characters never had a shot.