New streaming service HBO Max paid top dollar to get the exclusive US streaming rights to the classic sitcom Friends – and after a lot of rumors, it's reportedly close to making a reunion show, too. Deadline (opens in new tab) reports that the entire cast has "reached an agreement in principle" to return for an hour-long special. This special will help launch the new streaming service, which arrives in May.
Don't get too excited if you were hoping to see what all six annoying characters have been up to for the last 16 years – it's an unscripted special, which presumably means it'll take the form of a documentary or a series of interviews. Deadline reports a $3-4 million paycheck per cast member, though WSJ (opens in new tab) quotes a figure of $2.25-2.5 million per episode.
WSJ says that a Warner spokesperson says there is no deal, which is worth keeping in mind.
Both Deadline and WSJ's stories suggest that the special wasn't looking as likely as of the end of 2019, as negotiations between the cast and studio Warner Bros stalled over money.
While this story is far from official confirmation it's happening, this tease from cast member Matthew Perry seems well-timed:
Big news coming...February 5, 2020
As a day one exclusive, this could help HBO Max make a real splash if it becomes a reality – and it can't hurt to have the help. The new service is entering the streaming landscape at $14.99 per month, a higher price than some of its competitors.
For that, in addition to Friends, customers will get access to all past, present and future HBO shows, a mighty incentive. The streamer has also made deals to bring Studio Ghibli movies, South Park, and Rick and Morty to the service.
In the UK, where Friends is still huge, it's unclear where a reunion special like this might end up.
Why do people even care about Friends in 2020?
People clearly still harbor a lot of love for Friends in 2020. The show finished in 2004 after 10 seasons, and even though it ended in a fairly tired state, there's still constant interest in the show. It was apparently one of Netflix's most-watched shows in the US, along with The Office, and left the streaming service at the start of this year.
Friends is the kind of TV phenomenon you couldn't replicate now. We don't live in the same monocultural age that we did in the '90s – with a million things to watch on so many streaming services and cable channels, our TV watching is divided by interest group much more than it was in the '90s.
Friends is something that everyone has seen over the years. So bringing that back in any form is a huge story – especially if you're trying to muscle into a crowded streaming service market.