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Netflix Deals Mean That Disney Movies Could Come Back in 2026 — Report

Lawyers, get busy: Deals that Disney and other studios made long ago mean their movies and TV shows could return to Netflix.

Black Panther Michael B Jordan

“Black Panther”

Disney

As movies and TV shows shift homes during the streaming wars, Netflix is preparing to lose all its Disney properties including “Star Wars” films, Marvel movies, and more after their current licensing agreements run out. However, unless Disney lawyers find a way out, they’re scheduled to come back.

Per a report in Bloomberg, every Disney movie released between January 2016 and December 2018 on Netflix will return to the streaming giant around 2026. So while those movies are still leaving Netflix, they’ll return in about seven years — and disappear from Disney+ at that time, as well.

Similar deals have been struck with properties owned by NBC Universal and AT&T, the latter of which owns Warner Bros. titles that are meant to be a prime jewel of the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service.

According to the report:

Of the 10 most popular licensed programs on Netflix, at least eight will be on the streaming service for years to come, according to the people. “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Walking Dead” and a slate of shows from the CW network, including “Riverdale” and “Supernatural,” will stay on Netflix for as long as they remain on the air — and then for three to six years after that, said the people. That means they will be on Netflix until at least 2023, and probably well past that.

And when the big Marvel, “Star Wars” and Pixar films return to Netflix in a few years, they’ll disappear from Disney’s own online service, according to the people.

That’s good news for Netflix, if a bit confusing for the average consumer. Many of these licensed films and TV shows have served as the backbone of Netflix’s growing popularity. While fans flock to the streamer’s original programs — from “Birdbox” to “Bright,” “Stranger Things” to “Orange Is the New Black” — licensing established fan favorites like “The Office,” “Friends,” and “Grey’s Anatomy” has helped keep subscribers happy. When there’s not a new series to watch, they always have their favorite old shows to fall back on.

That way of thinking has driven Netflix’s rapid increase in original content as the company looks to build a library of its own that can compete with decades-in-the-making movie and TV libraries from studios like Disney. Now, those studios are preparing to unleash their direct-to-consumer streaming services — be it Disney+, WarnerMedia, or NBC Universal’s yet untitled offering — and Netflix will have a new fight on its hands.

That being said, the fall release dates for Disney+ (November 12) and WarnerMedia (TBA) don’t represent the end dates for Netflix’s licensing deals. Plenty of those programs will remain on Netflix for years to come, including “The Office” (through 2021), “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “The Walking Dead” (both for three years after leaving the air). Meanwhile, WarnerMedia will likely keep “Friends” to itself after Netflix’s licensing deal expires at the end of the year, but official word has not yet been given.

Moreover, the report states that Warner Bros. and NBC Universal will continue to sell current and future programming to other distributors — including Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu — while featuring them on their various streaming services, as well. For example, NBC Universal has held talks with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and AT&T about selling the rights to “The Office.” And if NBC Universal does decide to maintain exclusive rights for its streaming service, the company will likely still license shows like “The Good Place” to Netflix.

Given the lengthy timeline and shifting strategies, plenty could still change between now and 2026. But the streaming wars are looking even more complicated to crack on both ends of the business — for the studios and their audience.

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