New service will launch in the spring
WarnerMedia has finally named its upcoming streaming service -- HBO Max -- and confirmed that it will have the exclusive rights to former NBC sitcom "Friends" that has most recently screened on Netflix.
The service will launch in Spring 2020. It was initially expected to launch with a beta version by the end of this year.
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HBO Max, which still does not have a price tag -- though the inclusion of HBO could push it towards $16-$17 a month -- will feature programming centered around HBO, Warner Bros, New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes. These include rights to classic sitcoms like "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" which had previously not been available on any streaming service, as well as Freeform's "Pretty Little Liars."
HBO Max will also become the streaming home for all CW shows beginning with "Batwoman" and "Katy Keene," which make their debuts next season; Netflix still has various streaming rights for the other CW shows.
It was expected that WarnerMedia, which licensed the Warner Bros TV-produced "Friends" to Netflix for one more year -- with a hefty price tag -- would eventually pull the popular sitcom for its own service. HBO Max is paying out $425 million for five years beginning in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. WarnerMedia did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment on the price. Netflix paid close to $100 million to keep "Friends" for just one year.
"The One Where We Have To Say Goodbye. We're sorry to see Friends go to Warner's streaming service at the beginning of 2020 (in The US). Thanks for the memories, gang," Netflix wrote on Twitter account shortly after the news came out on Tuesday.
The One Where We Have To Say Goodbye.
We’re sorry to see Friends go to Warner's streaming service at the beginning of 2020 (in The US). Thanks for the memories, gang ☕
— Netflix US (@netflix) July 9, 2019
"Friends" becomes the second major sitcom to be removed from Netflix's stable, following NBCUniversal's decision last month to remove "The Office" from beginning in 2021, to use for its own upcoming streaming service.
HBO Max will also have a bevy of original content including four Greg Berlanti-produced films and two romantic comedies from Reese Witherspoon. HBO Max has slated seven original series for the service, including a "Dune" spinoff from Denis Villeneuve (who is also directing the big-screen reboot), the Ansel Elgort-starring "Tokyo Vice" and a "Gremlins" animated series.
"HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform. HBO's world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is 'Friends,'" Robert Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer, said. "Under the leadership of two of the strongest creative visionaries -- Casey Bloys (HBO) and Kevin Reilly (original content and acquisitions) -- and two of the most experienced digital experts -- Tony Goncalves and Andy Forssell -- I have no doubt they and their dedicated teams will deliver the world's best storytelling to audiences of all ages wherever and whenever they want it."
The expected high price point is due to HBO's existing contracts with TV providers. The pay cable network already has its own standalone service (HBO Now) that costs $15 a month, the same as its pay-TV subscription price. WarnerMedia would risk violating contracts if it charged a lesser price for an over-the-top (OTT) subscription.
Netflix's subscriptions go between $9-$16 a month, while Hulu offers plans that start at $6 a month. Disney+, which will be available on Nov. 12, is starting at $7 a month. HBO Max joins a crowded field of newcomers in the streaming arena, which will see Apple and Disney enter the market this year and NBCUniversal coming in alongside WarnerMedia in 2020.
You can see a logo for HBO Max below: