In the last couple of years, we have seen Disney announce the removal of their library from Netflix, WarnerMedia pull Friends from Netflix effective in 2020, and NBCUniversal announce they’re pulling The Office from the streaming service. As many of the major studios prepare for the oncoming streaming wars, they’re all pulling their content from Netflix (and Amazon Prime Video), meaning that each of the studios, as well as Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, will have to fend for themselves by producing their own original content in the coming years.
Moreover, most television networks are also owned by one of the major streaming services. Disney now owns Fox, FX, ABC, ESPN, and National Geographic, in addition to Hulu, where it will likely stream off-brand content. HBO and Cinemax, TBS, TNT, Warner Bros., and DC are owned by WarnerMedia, while NBCUniversal owns all of the NBC and Universal’s content, in addition to Bravo. Even smaller studios, like MGM, have their own streaming services (Epix).
There does, however, remain one major free agent in the streaming wars: AMC Networks, which owns AMC, IFC, BBC America, and Sundance, among others. Combined, AMC Networks has a number of popular and critically acclaimed series, like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Better Call Saul, and Killing Eve. As the other streaming services seek a competitive advantage, AMC Networks would seem to be in the driver’s seat. At the moment, it seems, AMC Networks is licensing out its content to the highest bidder. Currently, its most popular properties — The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Better Call Saul — are being licensed to Netflix, while Killing Eve, Preacher and Fear the Walking Dead are being licensed to Hulu, which is owned by Disney.
The Walking Dead, of course, continues to be a hugely popular series for Netflix, and as consumers continue to cut the cable cord, those shows — in some ways — will become even more valuable to streaming networks given the growing universe of consumers only able to access those shows via streaming networks. The details of AMC’s deal with Netflix for The Walking Dead — struck way back in 2011 — remains unclear, but AMC should be able to fetch top dollar from Netflix for continued rights, particularly given the fact that Netflix is losing rebroadcast rights to so much of its other off-network content.
Of course, as consumers continue to cut the cord, AMC’s viability as a cable-only network could be put into jeopardy without lucrative streaming deals. AMC could, of course, launch its own streaming network — it already has the infrastructure in place with AMC Premiere, a commercial-free version of the network that cost $5 a month, but is only available to cable subscribers. But the network is also primed for purchase. Other streaming companies like Netflix, Apple, and Amazon are likely prospective suitors, and given the popularity of The Walking Dead — the top-rated drama on cable — as well as Fear the Walking Dead, the upcoming spin-off, and the Rick Grimes movies, AMC’s content library could provide a huge boon to any streaming network seeking an advantage in the streaming wars.