The wait is over—well, sort of. In a little over a year, all 180 episodes of ‘90s classic Seinfeld will finally be available to all the Hulu holdouts out there. Netflix announced Monday that they had acquired the streaming rights to Seinfeld from its distributor Sony Pictures Television in a five-year deal beginning in 2021, when time runs out for Hulu, the show’s current home. The streaming-service pioneer beat out not only Hulu but Amazon, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and Viacom.
The news is a win for Netflix, which has not emerged victorious in other recent bidding wars over massive comedic properties. “Some TV producers,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “believe it has become futile for Netflix to bid against companies that are pursuing the rights for their own shows and essentially paying themselves.” Indeed, Netflix’s Seinfeld triumph follows its failures to retain the U.S. rights for Friends, which will move to parent company Warner Media’s HBO Max in spring of 2020, and The Office, which will become available exclusively on NBCUniversal’s own streaming platform launching in 2021. Unlike these new deals for Friends and The Office, which allow HBO Max and NBCUniversal domestic streaming rights only, Netflix will be the sole source of Seinfeld across the globe. One can only imagine how much Netflix paid for the privilege, considering that Hulu currently pays $150 million a year to keep Seinfeld available to its U.S. subscribers alone.
According to Netflix executives, the company will continue to focus on producing Netflix originals while licensing outside content “when it’s seen as making sense for its business,” per the Times. Acquiring Seinfeld no doubt makes sense, considering that bygone sitcoms are still streaming’s biggest drivers of revenue, at least in terms of the astonishing amount of time American audiences spend watching them: In 2018, Netflix subscribers watched a grand total of 52 billion minutes of The Office, and 32.6 billion minutes of Friends. Netflix will need to rack up a whole lot of minutes of Seinfeld to make up for it.
Representatives from Netflix and Sony shared statements on the Seinfeld acquisition.
“Seinfeld is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “It is as fresh and funny as ever, and will be available to the world in 4K for the first time. We can’t wait to welcome Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to their new global home on Netflix.”
Mike Hopkins, chairman of Sony Pictures Television, adds that Sony is “thrilled to be partnering with Netflix to bring this beloved series to current fans and new audiences around the globe.”