All six original cast members of Friends will reunite for an unscripted, hourlong special on the upcoming streaming service HBO Max, as announced by WarnerMedia. The special will be available to all subscribers along with all 10 seasons of the hit comedy series when HBO Max launches in the US in May, 2020. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer will each receive between $2.5 and $3 million to appear in the announced special, according to reports from Variety and Hollywood Reporter. Deadline reported the actors could receive around $4 million apiece for the short reunion. That’s almost four times more than what Anniston reportedly receives for each episode of The Morning Show, streaming on Apple. This was already among the highest paid salaries on TV.
The unreal sums underscore the importance of world-renowned intellectual property when launching a new streaming platform, as well as the rising demands of proven talent in the competitive streaming landscape. The reunion will be shot on the iconic Stage 24 at the WarnerBros studios also known as the Friends’ stage. The show debuted on NBC in 1994, and quickly became one of the most popular American TV shows of all time. Even as of 2020, almost 16 years since the finale, it is still one of the most-watched series on Netflix.
The Unreal Demand for the Show
This is why WarnerMedia was willing to pay $425 million in 2019 for the show’s exclusive streaming rights for the next five years. That’s also why the company is willing to shell out roughly $20 million more for the original cast members to reunite for what amounts to an hourlong hangout session. Normally, publicity stunts are not that expensive, but this is no ordinary show nor cast. These are sitcom legends that engaged and tuned many generations past and present. The rise of streaming and unlimited content in the “peak TV” era is constantly driving up the costs of talent. Wealthy companies like Netflix, Disney, Apple, and Amazon don’t have to think twice to pay massive sums in order to obtain stars like Aniston.
Some of the talent benefiting most from this are the legends of the show itself, as almost every network and streaming service looks to reboot or reunite the casts of legendary shows. Netflix recently rebooted Full House with many of the original cast members from the show. NBCUniversal is currently rebooting Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster for Peacock which should be streaming soon. Almost everything on Disney+, meanwhile, is based in part on popular franchises such as the MCU.
However, the Friends cast and creators have repeatedly said they’re not interested in a reboot series of the show. But as long as the show remains this popular, we have definitely not seen the last of Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Joey and Chandler.