On Wednesday, NBC Universal said it would not renew its licensing deal with Netflix for reruns of "The Office," according to a Washington Post report.

The company would forgo its annual payment of US$90 million ($134m) to instead bring all episodes inside the NBC Universal tent when the current deal expires in January 2021.

In fact, NBC Universal will pay US$100m ($149m) each year, for five years, to its sister unit Universal Television for that right, essentially paying itself for the rights. Then it will make those episodes available on its own planned subscription streaming service.


NBC's "The Office" play is part of a nascent trend.

As advertising revenue shrinks and money from subscriptions grows, TV networks and movie studios are mulling whether it's best to seize back control of their content.

Disney pulled its Marvel Studios content from Netflix so it could be exclusive to its own Disney Plus service, due to launch in the US later this year.

And pay TV networks HBO and Showtime have launched their own apps to reach their audiences directly over the internet. If you subscribe to the US$14.99 HBO now, you can watch Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies or Chernobyl without belong to an old school aggregator (a pay TV service) or a more recent incarnation of the middle man (a streaming service).

And the NBA will let people around the world watch certain games via its League Pass app, albeit for a price $49.99 a month.

Sky TV is in no immediate danger from HBO Now or Disney Plus, because it's in the middle of multiyear deals with both HBO and Disney for NZ-exclusivity to their content.

Put those deals will eventually expire. And when they do, HBO might decide it could make more money selling its app to Kiwi audiences directly, or at least make Sky TV's contract non-exclusive.

The shift toward content creators to take back control, or at least provide an app as an alternative means to view their shows (or movies or games), has to be worrying Sky TV and the Spark-owned Lightbox and Spark Sport (not to mention TVNZ and MediaWorks).


It's still unclear whether it will become a pervasive trend - but it's another headache that local contenders don't need in the ever-shifting media landscape. Not to mention a head-scratcher for consumers as they hunt for content in a streaming market that's getting ever-more convoluted.

We've arleady seen Netflix adapt by switching its focus from a "long tail" of content made by other to original series.

For local contenders, original content largely means sport involving NZ teams - and it's going to get more expensive as it becomes one of the few points of difference in an increasingly globalised streaming marketplace.