Classic sitcoms like “The Office” and “Friends” have become streaming rights battlegrounds as competitors look to bulk up on comfort-food programming. “Seinfeld” is likely the scene of the next scuffle.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hulu’s streaming deal for “Seinfeld” is expiring in 2020 and Comcast/NBCUniversal, Netflix and WarnerMedia are all expected to bid on the sitcom. Rights for the show could cost as much as $500 million for five years.
A standoff over “Seinfeld” would be set against a backdrop of major programmers wresting back their biggest shows from Netflix. Comcast paid $500 million to get back “The Office” for its upcoming NBCU streaming service and WarnerMedia paid $425 million to get “Friends” for its upcoming HBO Max streaming service, which will have exclusive streaming access to the show. “The Office” and “Friends” are the two most popular titles on Netflix.
In addition to being in the hunt for “Seinfeld,” WarnerMedia could also be tracking another pair of popular sitcoms for HBO Max. According to Deadline, WarnerMedia is chasing a deal for both “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” in a deal that could run as much as $1.5 billion.
The prices being paid for current and upcoming rights compared to the $160 million that Hulu paid in 2015 for “Seinfeld” illustrate the growing urgency among media conglomerates to quickly scale their streaming services with proven programming.
For Netflix, landing “Seinfeld” could potentially help fill the gap left after “The Office” and “Friends” leave the service. Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, said that while the loss of licensed content and increased competition probably won’t kill Netflix all together, it could lead to elevated churn.
“A lot of it is going to come down to programming and whoever has the hits,” Wolk said, likening what’s to come for the “flixes” to what the big broadcast networks used to go through, taking turns sitting on the primetime throne.