Just days after Netflix landed global streaming rights to Seinfeld, currently on Hulu, the classic NBC sitcom also has found a new cable home. Viacom has acquired the exclusive cable syndication rights to Seinfeld in a deal with Sony Pictures Television.
Beginning in October 2021, the full library of all 180 Seinfeld episodes will leave their long-time cable home on TBS and will air across Viacom’s entertainment brands, including Comedy Central, Paramount Network and TV Land. Upon the completion of the CBS-Viacom merger, CBS-owned Pop TV also is expected to air Seinfeld reruns when they become available .Additionally, catch-up episodes will be available through Viacom brands via authenticated video on demand, websites and apps.
No terms of the deal have been disclosed. The current cable syndication deal for Seinfeld at TBS is believed to be paying about $350,000 – $400,000 an episode. Industry sources speculated that the Viacom pact may be worth in the $200,000 – $250,000 per episode range while sources close to the situation said that the numbers are significantly higher. (The value of a series usually goes down with every cycle of syndication, and Seinfeld has gone through a slew of them, showing great longevity. In 1998, TBS set a then-record of $1 million an episode for the cable rights for the show.)
As Deadline reported last month, Sony Pictures Television this summer had taken out Seinfeld, which the studio distributes. In the previous negotiations, Sony synched up the off-network cable deal for Seinfeld at TBS with the streaming pact at Hulu, so all rights become available at roughly the same time in 2021.
It is somewhat surprising that Seinfeld, which is owned by Warner Bros. via Castle Rock, won’t be on any WarnerMedia cable or digital platforms starting in 2021. WarnerMedia’s HBO Max was considered an obvious choice for Seinfeld’s streaming rights, with TBS in the drivers seat to retain the comedy, which it had carried since Seinfeld entered cable syndication. But I hear talks with HBO Max did not go well, and, after Seinfeld’s SVOD rights went to Netflix for reported $500 million, the company was less interested in keeping the show on cable.
HBO Max recently shelled $425 million for Friends and $500 million for The Big Bang Theory — both also owned by Warner Bros. — making a joint deal with TBS for latter, estimated to be $600+ for the combined SVOD/cable rights. Friends also is on TBS. Exclusivity is important, and, already spending a ton for Friends and Big Bang, which it has exclusively across streaming and cable, WarnerMedia maybe did not find retaining Seinfeld and TBS as appealing without the streaming component. Additionally, Seinfeld‘s performance on TBS has softened over the years and the network no longer airs it in primetime.
Landing Seinfeld is a coup for Viacom, especially for TV Land, which is home of classic sitcoms but its catalogue features mostly older titles. Seinfeld would boost its profile, airing alongside fellow newer offerings as Two and a Half Men and The Goldbergs.
“We’re extremely proud to bring this little-known series to our viewers. With the right programming and promotion, we believe we’ll finally get Seinfeld the recognition it truly deserves, as merely the greatest sitcom of all-time,” said Kent Alterman, President of Comedy Central, Paramount Network, TV Land and Vandelay Industries.
Per the official announcement, “The deal was closed by Barbara Zaneri, EVP, Viacom Global Program Acquisitions, and Flory Bramnick, EVP, U.S. Distribution, Sony Pictures Television for an undisclosed sum and a loaf of marble rye after a spirited Festivus feats of strength competition.”
Said John Weiser, President, First Run Television for Sony Pictures Television who oversaw the sales process for the studio, “Seinfeld airing on Comedy Central and the Viacom networks brings together the greatest comedy of all time, with the best brands in cable. This was a tremendous team effort and we are delighted to be working with the first class executives at Viacom who are experts in programming and promotion. For a show about Nothing, this is really Something!”
An Emmy and Golden Globe-winner for Best Comedy Series, Seinfeld stars Jerry Seinfeld as a stand-up comedian whose life in New York City is made even more chaotic by his quirky group of friends who join him in wrestling with life’s most perplexing, yet often trivial questions. Co-starring are Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Jerry’s ex-girlfriend and current platonic pal, Elaine Benes; Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Jerry’s neurotic hard-luck best friend; and Michael Richards as Jerry’s eccentric neighbor, Kramer.
Seinfeld is a West/Shapiro Production in association with Castle Rock Entertainment. Seinfeld was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld and executive produced by Larry David, Howard West, and George Shapiro.