Over the past decade thanks to streaming services, comfort TV which often comes in the form of sitcoms or comedies have been growing in popularity and have been rapidly leaving Netflix in the United States. Big shows such as The Office and Friends have departed in recent years but that trend, at least for the moment, is exclusively for the United States. Outside the United States, Netflix is in a golden age of licensed sitcoms.
As many have documented, over the past decade we’ve seemed to have entered the age of comfort TV. It’s essentially TV that you can watch all the way through but not just once or twice but continuously.
Netflix has made some great strides in entering the space. Many cite Bojack Horseman as their crowning achievement with nods to other titles like Sex Education, The Ranch, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt but for the most part, it’s been licensed titles from the 90s or 00s that get the most press and watch time.
With that rapid rise in watch time and therefore, value, original owners of these series have been keen to capitalize and that’s often meant pulling the licenses in favor of their own streaming services. This proliferation of competition in streaming is perhaps most apparent in the US where there are over 300 streaming services.
In the US, we saw Warner Brothers pull their top show Friends in favor of HBO Max and we saw Comcast do the same with The Office in 2021 despite reports of Netflix offering lots of money to keep them.
Outside the United States, while we were expecting to see signs that the streaming wars are going to fragment and thin out content libraries like what’s happened in the US, the exact opposite has happened over the past few years.
In fact, we think Netflix outside the US are in the “golden age of comfort TV” with many of the biggest titles that fronted the US library in recent years being licensed to Netflix internationally.
What exactly does the lineup for outside the United States look like? Well for many, it looks like Netflix US just a few years ago plus even more.
Here’s a selection of the Netflix UK lineup right now for some of the biggest sitcoms and comfort shows:
- Young Sheldon
- The Big Bang Theory
- How I Met Your Mother
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine
- The Office
- Modern Family
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
- Rick and Morty
- South Park
- Parks & Recreation
- Close Enough
Those are in addition to the comedy series Netflix US has such as Seinfeld, New Girl (although not for long), Community, Schitt’s Creek, and others.
So why is Netflix getting all these shows licensed to them (often in the past couple of years)? There are a number of theories.
Firstly, it could be that these often legacy businesses are licensing out internationally for the useful injection of cash. Many legacy media companies are injecting billions into streaming services with many not expecting to turn a profit in a while.
Secondly, these companies could be using Netflix to bolster these shows popularity thanks to Netflix’s far-reaching subscriber base. When these shows grow in popularity and then get pulled eventually, the subscribers may be more willing to jump over to another service altogether.
As many will be keen to point out, the licensing of the biggest sitcoms to Netflix internationally won’t last forever. Given the second point above, we may see a shift of these top licenses away from Netflix over the next decade.
Warner Brothers for instance is slowly rolling out HBO Max across the world and has signaled that it will be taking back its licenses exclusively.
Comcast shows (such as The Office or Brooklyn Nine-Nine) could eventually land on the new combined service they’re working with ViacomCBS on called Sky Showtime in Europe.
Either way, for the moment, those outside the United States are being fed well when it comes to comfort TV that popularized Netflix in the US over the past 10 years.