An old show about nothing may still mean something to Netflix and its viewers. The streaming service announced in a tweet Wednesday that all 180 episodes of NBC’s comedy classic Seinfeld will become available for subscribers Oct. 1.
The streaming service nabbed global streaming rights to Seinfeld almost two years ago, when the Los Angeles Times broke the news of the deal. At the time, the paper’s Stephen Battaglio quoted “people familiar with the deal” as saying the Los Gatos, California, streaming video service had put down “far more than the $500 million NBCUniversal paid for The Office” that year, when it ranked as the number-one subscription-video-on-demand series.
The LA Times story also noted that Netflix would offer the decades-old series in 4K resolution, a considerable upgrade from the standard definition the sitcom created by comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld aired in from its 1989 pilot to its finale in 1998, months before HDTV’s commercial debut in the U.S.
Hulu, the previous home of Seinfeld, had reportedly paid a mere $160 million in 2015 for five years of U.S. streaming rights for the series that earned the nickname “a show about nothing” after an episode poked fun at the concept of a TV series starring its characters doing nothing special.
The costs to get streaming rights for name-brand series have gone way, way up since then. Beyond the half-billion-dollar cost for NBCUniversal to wrest The Office from Netflix in 2019 and spotlight it on Peacock, WarnerMedia shelled out $425 million to bring Friends from Netflix to HBO Max that same year.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, an analyst noted Wednesday.
“Popular series like Seinfeld are important for several reasons,” wrote Brett Sappington, a vice president with Interpret. “They have large, loyal, measurable fan bases, which allows licensees to have greater confidence as to the series’ impact on usage and revenues.”
Seinfeld in particular, he added, can be seen as the video equivalent of the comfort food that its stars Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander picked over at a coffee shop in so many episodes.
“When consumers are overwhelmed by choice, which can easily happen with Netflix, they often default to shows and movies that are familiar,” Sappington said. “Seinfeld gives viewers something to watch when they can’t make a decision.”