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AT&T will pull shows like 'Friends' from streaming rivals

It's betting that exclusivity will help WarnerMedia's service thrive.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 14, 2019
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AP Photo/Richard Drew

Don't expect Warner-made shows like Friends to persist on existing streaming services once AT&T's WarnerMedia launches its offering. AT&T chief Randall Stephenson said at a JPMorgan conference that the company "will be bringing" many of its media rights back in-house to put those shows on its own as yet unnamed service. The platform will be a "significant driver" for the company over the next few years with "tens of millions" of customers, Stephenson said, and it reportedly needs exclusives to make that happen.

Stephenson didn't name specific shows that would make the leap, although it's not hard to see likely candidates. Netflix's extended Friends deal only lasts through 2019, while WarnerMedia's service is expected to debut in beta by late 2019. Stephenson also named shows like Big Bang Theory and Seinfeld as strong suits.

This was somewhat expected. However, there's still something of a gamble involved. Much like Disney+, AT&T is betting that customers will follow shows and pay for one more subscription service to ensure they get everything. But that's not guaranteed -- there are already signs of people suffering from subscription fatigue and either limiting what they watch or turning to piracy. AT&T may still have to work hard to show that WarnerMedia is worth the outlay when many people are fine with sticking to the likes of Amazon or Netflix.

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