New York (AFP)

WarnerMedia recovers "The Big Bang Theory", Netflix picks up "Seinfeld", while NBCUniversal announces 15,000 hours of programs on its offer: the battle of content intensifies between American streaming platforms, pending a possible price war.

A month and a half from the launch of Apple TV +, which will be followed by Disney +, then, in 2020, HBO Max and the NBCUniversal service, each continues to stack content to attract or retain subscribers.

On Monday, Netflix announced that it had recovered the rights of the series "Seinfeld" (for the world unlike other platforms), for a sum estimated by US media to 500 million, after losing those of "Friends" and "The Office".

On Tuesday, WarnerMedia, which has already dropped "Friends" in his purse, announced the acquisition, for five years, the 279 episodes of "The Big Bang Theory", the last part was broadcast mid-May, for its future streaming offer, called HBO Max, announced for spring 2020.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the subsidiary of the telecom operator AT & T would have put on the table nearly 500 million dollars, an amount that WarnerMedia refused to confirm.

"The fact that we are proposing (the series) for the first time on a streaming platform in the United States is a boost for our new offering," said Robert Greenblatt, president of WarnerMedia Entertainment and direct offer to consumers, in a statement.

For Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, the loss of "The Office" and "Friends", Netflix's two most watched series, "left a hole in the content" of the undisputed leader in streaming.

- Thousands of hours of programs -

On Tuesday, NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of cable operator Comcast, gave details of its own platform, called Peacock, which it will launch in April 2020.

In addition to "The Office", obtained for $ 500 million, Peacock (the peacock, historical symbol of the NBC channel) will offer a series of heavyweights American television of the 80s and 90s, from "Cheers" to "Will & Grace ".

The platform will also feature new series, as well as "reboots" (new versions) of "Saved by the Gong" and "Punky Brewster", shot with actors of the original versions.

In total, Peacock arrives with 15,000 hours of programming, when WarnerMedia announces 10,000 hours of exclusive content.

"The streaming war is starting to look like + Game of Thrones +," says Daniel Ives. "Consumers are reaching the saturation point and everything is centered around content, content is king."

The other essential parameter is the price of the various subscriptions, which reflect the strategies of the different protagonists.

After starting very low ($ 7.99 in 2010), Netflix has gradually raised its prices as its portfolio expands, which is now close to 160 million subscribers.

But at $ 12.99 a month currently for the standard subscription, the market giant, the only truly global player for the moment, is well above the $ 6.99 announced for Disney + and $ 4.99 worth Apple TV +.

Arrived very late on the market, Disney follows an aggressive strategy of conquest, as well as Apple, which compensates with its price an offer which announces itself as the weakest of the landscape.

Neither Peacock nor HBO Max announced their introductory price, but most observers expect WarnerMedia to charge at least as much as the $ 14.99 per month currently charged for HBO Now, a platform dedicated solely to content from the HBO cable channel, the jewel of WarnerMedia.

Such a price would put HBO Max more than double Disney and triple Apple. Historically, HBO has always favored quality over quantity, even if it means producing fewer programs, a choice that has paid off over the last 20 years ("Game of Thrones", "Sopranos", "Veep" or "Westworld"), but the time is for accumulation.

"Consumers who pay this price will demand premium content," says Daniel Ives, "which made the acquisition of + Friends + crucial at the expense of Netflix."

The stakes are all the more critical for WarnerMedia, as the activist fund Elliott, which bought $ 3.2 billion worth of AT & T shares, questioned the cable operator's strategy of investing in content. and put the group under pressure.

© 2019 AFP