The battle for the streaming rights to 1990s sitcoms continued on Monday, when Netflix announced it had acquired the global rights to “Seinfeld.”
The hit comedy will begin appearing on the streaming service in 2021. “Seinfeld” currently streams on Hulu in the United States and in many other countries on Amazon. Hulu has the rights to the show until June 2021. Netflix struck the deal with Sony Pictures Television, which distributes the show.
The “Seinfeld” deal, which was reported earlier by The Los Angeles Times, comes in the middle of a frenzied battle between media companies over the rights of beloved vintage sitcoms.
Last year, Netflix paid $100 million to keep “Friends” on its platform for another year. Earlier this year, WarnerMedia, which is rolling out a new streaming platform called HBO Max next year, nabbed the rights to the show.
Similarly, “The Office” will soon be removed from Netflix and move over to Comcast and NBC Universal’s forthcoming streaming app, which is also expected to debut next year.
The deal Hulu has to stream “Seinfeld” is indicative of just how much the market has changed in recent years. In 2015, Hulu agreed to pay a little more than $20 million a year for six years to stream “Seinfeld,” according to a person briefed on the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not made public.
The recent deals for “Friends” and “The Office” helped increase the streaming value of older network sitcoms substantially. And the growing number of streaming services has made the marketplace far more competitive, with each service trying to create better original shows and license classic series to persuade consumers to subscribe. Financial terms of Netflix’s deal for “Seinfeld” were not disclosed, but it is certainly worth significantly more than the 2015 Hulu deal.
“Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “The Office,” were all hits for NBC when they were on the air, garnering ratings, critical praise and cultural cachet. The “Seinfeld” deal is just for streaming rights. Syndicated reruns of the show will remain on television throughout the country.
The new agreement puts Netflix even more squarely in the Jerry Seinfeld business. In 2017, Netflix purchased the back library for Mr. Seinfeld’s streaming interview show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” from Sony’s Crackle streaming service, and agreed to make new episodes. Netflix also made Mr. Seinfeld’s stand-up special “Jerry Before Seinfeld.”
“‘Seinfeld’ is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said in a statement. “It is as fresh and funny as ever.”
He added, “We can’t wait to welcome Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to their new global home on Netflix.”