In recent years, Netflix has removed many licensed and original shows from its platform. Although declining viewership is a contributing factor as to why shows go away, it’s quite shocking to see hit shows leave due to licensing battles. As new streaming platforms emerge, bidding on the rights to fan favorite shows has become big business and commonplace between streaming providers.
In 2020, WarnerMedia, which owns HBO and HBO Max, dished out $500 million to reclaim Friends. In 2021, NBC’s Peacock paid up the same for The Office (US). It might seem like a big payday for the streaming giant, but in the long run, is only hurting them.
By the end of the first quarter of 2022, Netflix reportedly lost 200,000 subscribers, their biggest loss in over a decade. It’s not a surprise that the decline is largely part of growing platforms like Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, and Peacock.
By the end of their 2022 third quarter, Disney+ subscriptions rose to 152.1 million. HBO, HBO Max, and Discovery+ are up 92.1 million. As competition grows, the blow from lost rights to licensed shows has only become more devastating to Netflix. Here are ten shows that left the platform and hurt Netflix the most.
One of the most shocking cuts to Netflix Originals, was that of Marvel’s Daredevil, which was stripped away from Netflix as it peaked viewership. According to the A.V. Club, Daredevil had 195 million minutes watched and was the 8th most-watched show on Netflix during the week of Dec. 20-26, 2021.
This spike was around the time that Charlie Cox made his debut as Matt Murdock/ Daredevil in the MCU during Spider-Man: No Way Home and the return of Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin was revealed on Hawkeye.
This was an ingenious move on Disney’s part to strike while the iron is hot and move the property onto its platform while awareness of the character was at an all-time high, and rights were being converted only two months after Daredevil was introduced into the current MCU. Despite Daredevil’s popularity, it left Netflix in the end of February 2022 once its rights went back to Disney and went on Disney+ March 16th.
Once the licensing deal ended, it opened the opportunity for Disney to either move the Daredevil property to Disney+ or create its own show under Marvel Studios. Sure enough, in July 2022, Marvel Studios announced that it would create its own Daredevil show on Disney+, Dare Devil: Born Again, which will stream on the platform in 2024. Its title is intentionally apropos, not just for its character’s sake, but it comes at a time during its own resurrection on the self-proprietary platform.
Making its Netflix debut on Nov. 20, 2015, Jessica Jones was another Defender Series Original to be put on the chopping block due to licensing expiration with Disney. Like Daredevil, it was removed from the platform in February 2022, only to be added to the Disney+ Marvel library in March 2022.
It was another blow for the streaming giant, as, according to UniversalNBC, when the show first streamed, Jessica Jones averaged 4.8 million viewers in the key 18-49 demographic per episode.
As the move made way for Marvel Studios to create a new Jessica Jones show, not much is known at this point. In July 2022, Marvel Studios only announced that the show’s title changed from ‘Jessica Jones’ to ‘A.K.A Jessica Jones,’ a reference to the A.K.A. naming convention on each episode of the series.
A title edit doesn’t seem like a big change and a bit of a slap in the face for Netflix, but the future success of the new Disney-created Daredevil: Born Again will surely have a domino effect on other new Defender Series shows.
On its premiere date, Sept. 30, 2016, Luke Cage was viewed by 3.52 million adults under the age of 50, according to SymphonyAM. Unlike other Defender Series shows that were impacted by license expiration with Disney, Luke Cage was canceled on June 22, 2018, after two seasons, due to creative differences by the show’s executive producer and showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, particularly around the lack of censorship.
According to Coker, the lack of censorship was a critical part of the show’s DNA and success. Coming at a time when Netflix was removing Marvel shows from its roster, Coker tweeted, “Rewatching Luke Cage while I can on Netflix. They’re going to do what they do. It’s theirs. I just hope they don’t sit on it for years to allow for an easier reboot or re-air it with a different mix or the N-Word muted.”
Coker alludes to the switch to Disney, which is known for its House of Mouse family-friendly programming. It is uncertain how or if Disney will handle the realism portrayed in Luke Cage’s display of racial tension, violence, and crude language.
There is no news that Disney will reboot Luke Cage or reprise Mike Colter’s role, but it’ll be interesting to see if Disney plays it safe or bends its views on censorship for the sake of show integrity and fandom.
Wrapping up the slate of Defender Series shows that left Netflix in February 2022, The Punisher had a nearly five-year run debuting on Nov. 17, 2017. The Punisher was streamed for 183 hours over its last 30 days, averaging 232 viewers with a peak of 1140.
According to data from analytics company Jumpshot given to Business Insider, the number of people watching Netflix’s The Punisher decreased by 40% between the weekend openings of its first and second seasons. Even so, it’s still not as bad as the 60% reduction for the two canceled Marvel series, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, on Netflix. As of March 2022, The Punisher Season 1-2 moved to Disney+ (US). Nothing is set to continue the series or reboot it as of yet.
Star Trek: Discovery
As we leave one beloved franchise, we head onto another. When the birth of Paramount+ occurred, one of the last streaming platforms to be released by a major distribution company, it was only fitting that Star Trek’s latest rendition of the 1960s iconic show move onto its parent platform. The show left Netflix by March 2021, as CBS rebranded CBS All Access to Paramount+. STD was, more than anything, an international deal for Netflix.
The series launched in September 2017 and left 2022, with only a release deal in the six figures. The Star Trek revival launched on what was then CBS All Access in North America and Netflix in the rest of the world. The UK, Germany, Ireland, Austria, and Switzerland were among the first markets to stream Discovery on Paramount+ of the more than 20 countries the show was available on outside of North America.
In the first week of Paramount+’s launch in March 2021, JustWatch estimated that Star Trek: Discovery was the most in-demand series on the new service. In December 2021, Paramount+ revealed that Discovery was the most-watched series on the streaming service for its inaugural year.
Parrot Analytics listed the series as the 15th most in-demand streaming series of 2021, the only Paramount+ series in their top 20 list for the year. Who’s to stay what would have become of STD if it stayed on Netflix? But without the tentpoles of yet another hit franchise, it is surely another blow to Netflix’s longevity within the streaming wars.
What could be said about the phenomenon that is Friends? It’s one of the most-watched shows in television network history and has been a consistent contributing factor to Netflix’s success over the years.
It’s the most popular show among British viewers and Netflix’s biggest hit globally. Yet with the launch of HBO Max, the decision was made by Warner Bros Discovery to remove hit shows in the US along with others, such as The Big Bang Theory, to drive its own home-grown service.
All ten seasons left Netflix (US) in May 2020 and left the UK in January 2022. In the first quarter of 2022, 31% of the 150 most-viewed shows and films by British users belonged to Netflix’s competition, and a quarter of all viewing was to content owned by rivals with streaming services. According to the research firm Digital I, in the first quarter of 2022, Friends was the most-viewed show in minutes on UK Netflix.
Just 10% of the most popular shows and movies that were released since the start of 2021 were not Netflix Originals. It’s hard to contemplate the continued success of Netflix without anchors that have become embedded in the pop culture zeitgeist, like Friends and The Office (US). Yet one must, as the platform becomes more of an Originals content-first owned entity.
The Office (US)
Like Friends, The Office (US) has been a staple in Netflix viewership after its syndication in 2009. Netflix was The Office’s second wave of popularity, turning it into a phenomenon on streaming services and for a new generation of Gen Zers.
The Wall Street Journal stated in April 2019 that The Office was the most-watched Netflix program for a 12-month period that ended in the summer of 2018, using data gathered and examined by Nielsen. It garnered about 3% of all user minutes, which means that 45.8 billion minutes were spent viewing the show by Netflix subscribers.
This surpassed Friends, which garnered 31.8 billion viewing minutes and cost Netflix $100 million to maintain until 2019. Yet with the launch of Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, the hit show left Netflix on Jan. 1, 2021.
Before Peacock even had a name, NBCUniversal announced that it would remove The Office from Netflix in order to make it an exclusive for the streaming service. The first two seasons of The Office are now available for free with the free edition of the NBCUniversal streamer for fans who go over to Peacock to watch.
However, only Peacock Premium, the streaming service’s premium membership, will offer access to seasons three through nine of the program. With a Peacock Premium subscription, you’ll also get access to what Peacock is calling Superfan Episodes, which are essentially collections of omitted sequences, longer edits, and never-before-seen footage from the 2005-starting original series.
NBC is also developing a 24/7 noise channel dubbed The Office Zen, which is a channel of ambient noise devoted to the sights and sounds of The Office for anyone working at home who misses background talk between cubicles or the drone of the copier.
Never underestimate the power of children’s television programming. Since the debut of its first season in 2013, PAW Patrol has been a global phenomenon in the kids’ genre.
The Canadian animated series by Spin Master Ltd., which centers on ten-year-old Ryder and a pack of dogs as they carry out neighborhood rescue operations, has grown into a multibillion-dollar property and currently rules the world’s licensing market. The six animated pooches who guard Adventure Bay have been great for Nickelodeon’s live events and consumer goods divisions.
Nickelodeon and Spin Master generated $2 billion in retail sales of toys, clothing, home goods, publishing, and other products in 2021. Up to October 2022, Netflix owned international streaming rights to the massive hit show. So as the show’s popularity grew, so did its viewership on Netflix.
In most countries across the world, PAW Patrol had consistently been in the Top 10 kids’ lists on Netflix. In the UK, the show broke records for being on the Top 10 for 310 days, and that number was continuously rising.
Even outside the US, the show ranked as the most popular kids’ show on Netflix, outperforming CoComelon. It came as no surprise on how devastating the loss was for Netflix, when PAW Patrol’s owner, Nickelodeon, moved its viewership to its parent company platform on Paramount+ in October.
Along with Spongebob Squarepants and other Nickelodeon properties, Netflix was forced to forfeit another successful show due to the birth of a new competing platform.
Fullmetal Alchemist has been considered to be one of the most admired and revered anime franchises coming out in the 2000s. Hiromu Arakawa is the author and illustrator of the well-known manga series, which was twice turned into an anime show.
Studio Bones was the producer of both Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Brotherhood deals with issues of loss, grief, war, racism, and ethics in mature and original ways that resonated big with its audience.
Additionally, the show has perfectly timed arcs that flow into one another and support a larger global narrative. Fans consider this program to be among the best anime series out there, making it a devastating setback for Netflix.
The original Fullmetal Alchemist anime and its remake Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood left Netflix on Jan. 1, 2022, for its parent proprietor, Crunchyroll, found on HBO Max and Hulu. It had a top viewing streak of 41 months since they were added to Netflix on Aug. 1, 2018.
The removal of Hemlock Grove is quite interesting, as outside of House of Cards and Lilyhammer, it’s one of the first Originals to stream on Netflix in April 2013, and the first original horror series to hit the platform.
After its opening weekend, Netflix announced that the show was viewed by more members globally in its first weekend than House of Cards. Hemlock Grove is an example of a type of Netflix Original that is produced solely for the streaming service by another production firm but only for a limited time. Hemlock Grove’s fundamental rights are held by Gaumont International Television.
All three seasons of Hemlock Grove left Netflix on Oct. 23, 2022. Exactly 7 years following the release of season 3 onto the service worldwide. The removal date also applies to Netflix globally, so if you’re in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or other regions, the departure of Hemlock Grove also came at the exact same time.
This move might pave the way for future removals of additional third-party-owned Netflix Originals. Orange is the New Black, a Lionsgate Television program, is another third-party-owned production that is under the same cancellation terms. Most recent shows that are launched as Netflix Originals, however, are owned by Netflix forever. It only goes to show that not even Netflix Originals, which were among the first, are immune to the Netflix axe.