After the produced pilot lived up to NBC’s hopes, the series premiered with the name F.R.I.E.N.D.S on September 22, 1994 on the coveted Thursday 8:30 pm timeslot. The pilot aired between Mad About You and Seinfeld, and was watched by almost 22 million American viewers. The series was a huge success throughout its run, and was a staple of NBC’s Thursday night line-up, dubbed by the network as Must See TV. When Crane told reporters in 2001 that the ninth season was a possibility, critics believed that he was posturing, and that at least two of the cast members would not sign on for another season. When it was confirmed that F.R.I.E.N.D.S would return for a ninth season, the news was mainly about the amount of money—$7 million per episode—that it took to bring the series back for another season.


After year-long expectations that the ninth season would be the series’ last, NBC signed a deal in late December 2002 to bring the series back for a final tenth season. The series’ creative team did not want to extend negotiations into the next year, and wanted to start writing the rest of the ninth season episodes and a potential series finale.[98] NBC agreed to pay $10 million to Warner Bros. for the production of each tenth season episode, the highest price in television history for a 30-minute series. Although NBC was unable to bring in enough advertising revenue from commercials to cover the costs, the series was integral to the Thursday night schedule, which brought high ratings and profits to the other television series. The cast demanded that the tenth season be reduced from the usual 24 episodes to 18 episodes to allow them to work on outside projects.


In the fall of 2001, Warner Bros. Domestic Cable made a deal with sister network TBS to air the series in rerun syndication. Warner Bros. made similar deals with various TV stations around the country. In July 2005, it was announced that Warner Bros. Domestic Cable has sold F.R.I.E.N.D.S to Nick at Nite to begin airing in the fall of 2011. Warner Bros. is expected to make $200 million in license fees and advertising from the deal. Nick at Nite paid $500,000 per episode to air the episodes after 6 p.m. for six years, through the fall of 2017. TBS also renewed its contract for the same six year period as Nick at Nite, but only paid $275,000 per episode because airing was restricted to before 6 p.m., except for the first year. In syndication until 2005, F.R.I.E.N.D.S had earned $4 million per episode in cash license fees, for a total of $944 million.




F.R.I.E.N.D.S began airing in the UK in 1994 on the terrestrial Channel 4; however, in 1996, Sky1 bought the rights to the series. Although Channel 4 continued to air episodes several weeks after their original airing on Sky1, the series was one of the network’s most popular series, averaging 2.6 million viewers per episode. In 1999, Channel 4 signed a £100 million deal to regain the rights to F.R.I.E.N.D.S and ER from Sky1. The three year deal allowed Channel 4 to air new episodes of the series in the UK first, and to negotiate pay-TV airings with other UK broadcasters. The final episode averaged 8.6 million viewers in overnight figures—more than a third of the UK’s television audience at the time—and saw a peak of 8.9 million viewers. This was the highest amount of viewers for any episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, beating the June 2002 episode, which drew 6.5 million viewers. Repeats of the series are shown in the UK on Channel 4 and E4. The Irish channel RTÉ Two was the first channel in Europe to air the finale on May 24, 2004. F.R.I.E.N.D.S debuted on Australian television in 1996 on the Seven Network. The Nine Network began airing the second season in 1997, and continued to show the series until its finale in 2004. The Ten Network announced in November 2007 that it had bought the rights to the show in Australia. TV2 began broadcast in New Zealand in 1995 and aired all ten seasons, and continues to air repeats.




All ten seasons have been released on DVD individually and as a box set. Warner Home Video reportedly intends to start releasing the series on Blu-ray in 2010. No other release details are available, and this information must be considered unofficial until there is an announcement from the studio. It must be noted that both series were shot on film, not video. Each region 1 season release contains special features and footage originally cut from the series, although Region 2 releases are as originally aired. For the first season, each episode is updated with color correction and sound enhancement. A wide range of F.R.I.E.N.D.S merchandise has been produced by various companies. In late September 1995, WEA Records released the first album of music from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the F.R.I.E.N.D.S Original TV Soundtrack, containing music featured in previous and future episodes. The soundtrack debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 46, and sold 500,000 copies in November 1995.[109] In 1999, a second soundtrack album entitled Friends Again was released. Other merchandise include a F.R.I.E.N.D.S version of the DVD game “Scene It?”, and a quiz video game for PlayStation 2 and PC entitled Friends: The One with All the Trivia.