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If Netflix wants to keep “The Office,” it’s going to be very, very expensive

AP Photo/NBC, Byron Cohen
“I declare bankruptccccyyyyy!”
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Netflix pushed the popularity of The Office to new heights after it started streaming reruns of the US TV sitcom, as far back as 2011 in the US. Soon, the streaming giant will have to pay up to hold onto the beloved show.

Rights-owner NBCUniversal is launching a new streaming service next year. Unlike Disney, which didn’t renew its deal to stream movies on Netflix when it started building its own platform, NBC said it still plans to license its content to other providers on a show-by-show basis. But NBC’s own platform will enter the market as a buyer of content from the company’s studios, too. Its presence could considerably drive up the price for popular NBC shows like The Office.

“I think it is going to be very positive for us financially because, in effect, we’re going to be a brand-new buyer,” said Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, on parent company Comcast’s earnings call on Wednesday (Jan. 23). “We do feel we under-monetize significantly on the internet… As more and more content becomes available, I think a lot is going to be on our platform, but we will continue to sell on other platforms depending on the show, depending on the prices that we can command for those products.”

NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt put it another way in an interview with Vulture last fall:

I believe that Netflix has helped make The Office extraordinarily popular, and more popular than it was when it was on the network. And they pay us a lot of money for it. If we knew how popular it was going to be before they made the deal, we would have asked for more money from them!

NBC will get its chance to negotiate more money for The Office at the end of 2020, when Netflix’s exclusive US streaming deal for all nine seasons of the show’s US version ends, the Daily Beast reported.

Netflix, which spent around $12 billion on content last year, isn’t one to shy away from a big content bill. It recently renewed its deal with WarnerMedia to stream another classic sitcom, Friends, for an exorbitant $100 million a year. Even then, Netflix isn’t guaranteed exclusivity (paywall) beyond 2019, which could happen with The Office when the current deal is up, as well. But it was worth it for Netflix to keep subscribers happy who still stream repeats of the series in between other viewing, and sate younger members who are discovering the show for the first time.

The Office went off the air nearly six years ago, and is still one of the most-viewed programs on Netflix today, Recode reported in December, based on data from analytics firm Jumpshot. Netflix itself doesn’t release viewership numbers regularly.

Should Netflix lose The Office, it has its own version on the way. It recently ordered a workplace comedy from The Office co-creator Greg Daniels and star Steve Carell about the people building the upcoming sixth branch of the US military, the Space Force.

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