June 13, 2024

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“Suits” was the most-streamed title of 2023 — a sign that licensed content is here to stay.

According to third-party rating service Nielsen, the USA Network series was viewed for nearly 58 billion minutes last year after it spent 12 consecutive weeks at the top of Nielsen’s viewership charts.

Netflix (NFLX) acquired the drama in July. It’s also available to stream on Comcast’s Peacock (CMCSA).

The resurgence of licensed content seems to have brought the streaming wars full circle after companies spent billions to create original IP in a bid to edge out competitors and attract subscribers.

Although Netflix has certainly led that charge — the company recently revealed 45% of all viewing on Netflix stemmed from licensed titles from January to June 2023 — it’s actively shut down licensing out its own content.

“Our large subscriber base and our recommendation system [knew] to put ‘Suits’ in front of people who were going love it the most,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said on a call with reporters late last year. “I do not think that that necessarily would happen in reverse. I do think that we can add value when we license content. I’m not positive that that’s reciprocal.”

Disney (DIS) has been one competitor embracing the change.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” has been highly successful on Netflix while Disney acquired the international broadcasting rights to “Bluey,” the No. 2 most-viewed acquired title, from BBC Studios in 2019.

However, similar to Netflix’s refusal to license out its original series, Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the company’s latest earnings call that core brands like Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars and all likely off-limits as they offer “real competitive advantages” and are “differentiators” for the company.

But analysts have described that thinking as a double-edged sword, citing high debt loads and streaming profitability challenges.

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