The cast of Friends during a photoshoot. (Source: FriendsTV Official Twitter)

Sharing ‘Friends’ With Rival Netflix Makes Sense, AT&T CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson revealed more of his plans for how his media empire WarnerMedia will play with partners and rivals like Netflix, and it starts with “Friends.”

AT&T renewed a licensing deal with Netflix Inc. for the popular sitcom, adding a provision that the telecom company can put the show on its streaming service due out next year and collect revenue from the property.

“Is it necessary that it be exclusive to WarnerMedia on their product? No, it’s not necessary. It’s just important that we have the content,” Stephenson said of “Friends” during a presentation to investors Tuesday.

“Friends” is owned by WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros. studio. The show has been airing reruns for years on cable and on Netflix, where it has a steady following. The deal between Warner Bros. and Netflix was set to expire at the end of this year.

Netflix typically strikes deals for shows that make it exclusive to its streaming property. But AT&T renewed the deal with Netflix while holding on to the right to stream “Friends” on a three-tier streaming service the company plans to launch at the end of 2019.

Stephenson said he wasn’t interested in creating a video “warehouse” like Netflix. Instead, AT&T will focus on HBO as a key component of its video strategy, investing to develop more programs and making HBO the core of the coming streaming service.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.