EXCLUSIVE: In what is believed to be the biggest subscription video-on-demand deal for a TV series, I’ve learned that Netflix has acquired the rights to hit NBC drama The Blacklist from Sony Pictures TV in a deal that will net $2 million per episode. I hear Season 1 of the series starring James Spader will debut on the streaming service next weekend. As for future seasons, Netflix usually makes them available shortly after the season finales.
Sony TV first tested the off-network market waters for The Blacklist in March. While other streaming services, like Amazon and Hulu, do joint syndication deals with cable networks, Netflix, which largely pioneered the series SVOD business, insists on getting first dibs. Twentieth Television just recently sold New Girl to TBS and MTV, more than an year after prior seasons of the Fox series landed at Netflix in a rich deal, said to be worth $900,000 an episode. Like was the case with New Girl, I hear Sony TV has the right to also sell The Blacklist in cable and broadcast syndication, with Netflix getting an exclusive first window. The $2 million per-episode fee is said to be the biggest for an off-network series paid by Netflix (or any others streaming company), eclipsing previous record holder, AMC’s The Walking Dead, whose sale price to Netflix is believed to be $1.35 million per episode.
It is fitting that Sony TV is charting new territory in the broadcast space with the rich Blacklist deal. The studio was an early Netflix adopter, making one of the early series deals with the streaming service for its AMC drama Breaking Bad, which became one of the first Netflix mega hits and helped usher in the era of binge viewing.The Breaking Bad prequel comedy Better Call Saul also will stream on Netflix, and Sony TV also became one of the first major studios to produce an original series for the streaming service with KZK.
The Blacklist, in which NBC has minority ownership, is a successful, syndicatable broadcast procedural drama, which has been a rare breed during the past five years as the networks have gravitated toward more serialized fare. But it also features a serialized main storyline, making it attractive for streaming services like Netflix. (Blacklist also set a string of DVR records, and time shifted viewing is at the core of online streaming.)
The Blacklist is NBC’s flagship scripted series, which airs behind The Voice on Mondays and is poised to become the network’s new Thursday 9 PM anchor in midseason. It was the breakout new series of last season, averaging a 4.4 rating in adults 18-49 and 15.4 million total viewers in Live+7, only a fraction behind ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy in the broadcast drama rankings among 18-49 and network TV’s third-most-watched drama behind CBS’ NCIS and NCIS: LA. Both Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS: LA fetched cable syndication license fees just north of $2 million. The Blacklist accomplished that with the Netflix deal. With cable and broadcast syndication pacts in the offing, it is expected to eclipse the $3 million per-episode total netted by CBS’ Elementary from SVOD (Hulu Plus), cable (WGN America) and broadcast syndication.