Will the streaming giant’s budget cuts take away your next ‘Breaking Bad’ binge?

Despite popular belief, Netflix didn’t create binge watching. 

That’s a practice that developed in the 2000s as DVDs, first introduced in 1996, began catching on. 

Devoted fans of cult-beloved TV shows such as “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “The Office” would watch entire seasons over and over again. People who kept hearing about buzzy shows such as “The Sopranos” but didn’t have HBO would check out the DVD box sets. (HBO  (WBD) – Get Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. Report once had an entire ad campaign about how their box sets were great Father’s Day Gifts.) 

Netflix  (NFLX) – Get Netflix Inc. Report started as a mail order subscription service, and the term “red envelope” is one of those generational signifiers that people of a certain age (call them Old Millennials if you insist) will instantly recognize, and everyone below that age…won’t. But when the company introduced streaming in 2008, it suddenly became much easier, and therefore more popular, to binge watch television. 

Netflix Built Its Popularity On Binge Watching

For the first few years of its existence, Netflix’s streaming service was a bonus that came with the subscription service, and at first, there wasn’t a ton on there. 

But as Netflix began licensing more shows from studios such as Sony  (SNE) – Get Sony Corp. Report and NBC, a feedback loop ensued. More people began checking out the service, and shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “Parks and Recreation” slowly went from being underseen cult favorites to era smashes.

Some programs have been on Netflix for so long that they’re become almost foundational elements of the service, and it’s hard to picture Netflix without them. Who amongst us, during the pandemic, didn’t find it comforting to watch several episodes of “New Girl” in a row?

But nothing gold can stay, and now it seems like even more popular standbys might be disappearing fairly soon. 


What Shows Might Be Leaving Netflix?

Many pop culture fans have started grumbling recently that we didn’t know how good we had it when there were all but a handful of streaming services, instead of the many we have now.

The fans have every right to be disgruntled about the streaming wars, as the halcyon days when they could catch up on more or less everything by signing up for a few services are long gone. 

But from the perspective of studios like Disney and NBC (which is now owned by Comcast  (CMCSA) – Get Comcast Corporation Class A Common Stock Report) it did not make good business sense to continue to allow their intellectual property to fuel the growth of a competitor that was beginning to subsume the entertainment industry. 

For a while, studios were making good money off of the licensing fees from Netflix and its competitor Hulu, but eventually they realized it made even more sense to launch their own streaming services.

So when Disney+  (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report launched in the fall of 2019, it took back all of the Marvel and Star Wars films it had licensed to the company, and NBC did the same for “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and more.

Netflix had long anticipated this move, and began creating its own original shows and films to fill the void…to mixed success. 

But for a while Netflix executives could comfort themselves that even if their originals were more flops than hits, at least they had several standbys left. 

But now it seems that “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” “New Girl,” “Community,” “NCIS,” and “How to Get Away with Murder” are set to leave Netflix by 2025, after their licensing deals expire.

The beloved NBC cult hit “Community” is set to become exclusive to Peacock. It’s not clear what will happen with the rest of the programs, though “New Girl” and “How To Get Away With Murder” originally aired on Fox and ABC respectively, which makes Hulu their likely home.

“Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad” are produced by Sony, whose licensing deal with Netflix will expire by early 2025, according to The Wrap. Sony is the only major studio without its own streaming service, so it’s anyone’s guess where the shows may end up; it’s always possible they’ll both land on AMC+, the streaming service run by AMC  (AMC) – Get AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. Class A Report (the network that originally aired both shows) alongside “The Walking Dead” and “Mad Men.”

It’s well within the realm of possibility that Netflix could choose to renew the Sony deal, and maybe even make a compelling offer to Disney to extend the “New Girl” license. 

But Netflix is both trying to spend more money to get the next breakout hit, while also cutting costs left and right, so it’s not clear how much the company values catalog hits like these anymore, even if betting solely on the popularity of Netflix originals seems unwise.

But the good news is that Netflix fans still have a few more years to rewatch the “New Girl” episode where Jess and Nick kiss for the first time without signing up for another subscription.