Friends sales

Breaking news: turns out people still really like watching Friends.

The mega-hit NBC sitcom has become a cross-generational juggernaut, resonating with not only the original audience who watched it live, but also with millennials who may not have even been born yet when the show debuted in 1994. Now, with the show having left Netflix and awaiting its arrival on the soon-to-be-launched HBO Max streaming service, fans are still looking for their Friends fix – and they’re getting it by buying the series in huge numbers.

According to Variety, Friends sales have “roughly tripled” in terms of physical (Blu-ray, DVD) and digital releases since word first came out that the series was going to leave Netflix at the end of 2019. Rosemary Markson, the senior vice president of TV marketing for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, explained that “it was the top-selling catalog-TV franchise in home entertainment” at the start of 2020.

Though it seems obvious to me now, I frankly hadn’t considered that removing Friends from all streaming platforms for a limited time would be a way for WB to make more money through physical media or digital purchases – mainly because I didn’t expect people would pony up to buy the series outright when they could just wait a few months for it to pop up on another streaming service. But the fact that sales have gone up this much reveals the extreme level of devotion fans have to this series, and how much they rely on it as part of their regular media consumption.

WB’s plan seems to be working perfectly – and they’re just getting started. The company is planning to take full advantage of this limbo period by creating marketing materials that encourage people to purchase the show themselves. “I know a lot of fans were upset when it exited Netflix, so we wanted to make sure that fans know where to find Friends,” Markson told Variety. “We’re looking at a broad-based marketing and publicity plan to get the word out and to continue to drive sales around the franchise…We’ll have media running as well as a lot of different promotional activities with our regional partners that’s already started but you’ll see in the next several months…we still think there’s an opportunity to continue to educate consumers and point them in the direction of where they can find Friends.”

HBO Max debuts in May, but it’s become clear that many Friends fans aren’t interested in waiting that long (and maybe they aren’t interested in signing up for yet another streaming service). And at the end of the day, owning a series on physical media is the only true way to sleep soundly knowing that you can watch it any time you want, because even purchasing something through iTunes is more illusory than it appears.

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