Ah, there was a time when social media was abuzz with news about the Friends reunion episode on HBO Max. However, our hopes and dreams seem to have been shattered by the recent coronavirus pandemic because the production of the show has been delayed.
The unscripted special was supposed to be filmed on the show’s former home at Stage 24 of the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank between March 23 and 24. However, given the current state of the global threat, the production has been delayed until at least May. Moreover, a formal filming date has yet to be determined since it is not clear if any of the programs will be able to resume production any time soon.
Almost all current productions, be it scripted, late-night, daytime and others, have been shut down as the world has gone into a full self-quarantine mode and is employing social distancing. Meanwhile, CDC has recommended avoiding groups greater than 50. That makes it difficult for everyone involved since even unscripted shows like the Friends reunion will have hundreds of people at any given time on sets.
The special, which will reunite original cast members Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courtney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), David Schwimmer (Ross), Matthew Perry (Chandler), and Matt LeBlanc (Joey) was going to be the show WarnerMedia’s streaming service, HBO Max banked on. The cast is supposed to earn more than double their former per-episode fee for the reunion. That is between $2.5 million and $3 million per episode. In contrast, the cast had famously renegotiated their salaries together during the original run of the series to earn $1 million per episode – a historic feat at the time.
Besides, the Friends special is a big deal for HBO Max. Other than it being the first time the cast would reunite on screen since the show went off-air in 2004, it would also ensure in the increase in initial subscribers for HBO Max. This is the kind of show that streaming platforms look for. Just like how Disney+ had The Mandalorian and Netflix found Stranger Things and more recently, Love is Blind.
Apart from the release of the special, HBO Max will also be exclusively streaming Friends. The series was previously available on Netflix till January 1. Thereafter, WarnerMedia paid an estimated $425 million for the rights of the series.
However, it is still unclear if the spread of the pandemic will affect the launch of HBO Max.
HBO Max is all set to launch in May. The streaming service will combine HBO’s archive with new shows and films in addition to Warner Bros. movies and new original series. Moreover, it is set to be priced at $14.99 a month, the current price of HBO Now. That puts the service in the higher price section. On the other hand, Netflix’s most popular plan is $12.99 a month, Disney+ is %6.99 a month while Apple TV Plus comes at $4.99 a month.