In the competition for popular network sitcoms, Netflix has won the global streaming rights to “Seinfeld.”
Netflix will offer all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld” in the United States, and to its 151 million members worldwide as part of a five-year contract with Sony Pictures Television, which owns distribution of the classic TV program, the companies announced Monday.
In a statement to The New York Times, Sony Pictures Television Chairman Mike Hopkins said, “‘Seinfeld’ is a one-of-a-kind, iconic, culture-defining comedy.” “‘Seinfeld’ is still in the spotlight 30 years after its debut. We’re ecstatic to be collaborating with Netflix to bring this beloved series to new audiences around the world.”
Netflix’s acquisition of “Seinfeld” is a huge return statement, as the streaming rights to “The Office” and “Friends” were recently lost to the media giants that own those shows. “Friends” will be available on Warner Media’s planned HBO Max platform, while “The Office” will be available on NBCUniversal’s new streaming service.
The deal’s terms were not disclosed, but people familiar with the matter claimed Netflix paid significantly more than NBCUniversal paid for “The Office” ($500 million) and Warner Media paid for “Friends” ($425). Those five-year deals were only for streaming rights in the United States.
The domestic streaming rights to “Seinfeld” are now held by Hulu, which is majority-owned by Walt Disney Co. and paid around $130 million in a six-year deal that expires in 2021. In the majority of the global regions where Netflix would be available, Amazon had the streaming rights.
According to people involved with the conversations who were not authorized to comment, Netflix beat out proposals from Hulu, Amazon, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, and Viacom, which has controlled the CBS All Access streaming service since its merger with CBS Corp.
In a statement, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, stated, “Seinfeld is the television comedy against which all television humor is measured.” “It’s as fresh and amusing as ever, and it’ll be available in 4K for the first time in the globe.”
The decision was a setback for NBCUniversal, which had a long relationship with “Seinfeld” and might have used the show to promote its planned streaming service.
On the other hand, Netflix is thought to have been particularly relentless in its pursuit of “Seinfeld,” one of the few long-running comedy programs that appeal to multiple generations of fans. “Seinfeld,” starring Jerry Seinfeld as himself as he navigates single life in Manhattan with his solipsistic pals, aired on NBC from 1989 to 1998 and completed its original run as the No. 1 primetime show, according to Nielsen.
The other broad-appeal sitcoms on the streaming market, Warner Bros. Television’s “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” are anticipated to migrate to HBO Max, which parent company WarnerMedia owns. Some TV producers say Netflix’s bids against firms chasing the rights to their series and ultimately paying themselves have grown useless.
The ownership of “Seinfeld,” produced by the now-defunct studio Castle Rock, is split between WarnerMedia, CBS, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David, the show’s co-creator. After Sony obtains a big amount as the show’s distributor, everyone will share in the earnings from the Netflix contract.