What’s the deal with all these classic sitcoms moving to new streaming services?
After losing its two most popular library titles—Friends, which moves to HBO Max in 2020, and The Office, which will head to NBCUniversal’s still-unnamed streaming service in 2021—Netflix has made a big move to restock its classic sitcom shelf. The company announced today that it has poached Seinfeld from Hulu, and will begin airing the series in 2021.
In the five-year deal, Netflix will be the global exclusive streaming home for Seinfeld. It’s the first time that all 180 episodes of the show—which aired on NBC from 1989-1998—will be on one service worldwide. Financial details were not disclosed.
“Seinfeld is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against. It is as fresh and funny as ever and will be available to the world in 4K for the first time,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, in a statement. “We can’t wait to welcome Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to their new global home on Netflix.”
“Seinfeld is a one-of-a-kind, iconic, culture-defining show. Now, 30 years after its premiere, Seinfeld remains center stage. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Netflix to bring this beloved series to current fans and new audiences around the globe,” said Mike Hopkins, chairman of Sony Pictures Television, in a statement.
This is the second time Netflix has landed a Jerry Seinfeld project that previously aired on another streaming service. In 2017, Netflix struck a deal with Seinfeld that moved his interview series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, from its original home, Sony’s Crackle service.
Sony had helped raise the show’s profile this summer by enlisting brands like Drake’s, Junior Mints and the New York Mets to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. “The show has never been more of a fan favorite that it is now,” John Weiser, president of first-run television for Sony Pictures Television, told Adweek in June. “The brand is continuing to grow organically, with its fans on every platform we’re on.”
In 2015, when Hulu was struggling for a toehold in the streaming space, it made a big splash by landing the streaming rights to Seinfeld. Hulu’s deal was U.S.-only, while Netflix will now have global exclusive streaming rights to the series.
Seinfeld appeared at Hulu’s NewFronts event that year to announce the deal, telling buyers, “You could have put the DVD in, but I guess nobody really wanted to do that. They want to do this!” He added of streaming services like Hulu, “I know from having kids, it’s the only way they’re going to watch it.”
Hulu did not immediately respond to a request for comment about losing Seinfeld to Netflix in 2021. However, according to a source, the show wasn’t one of Hulu’s most-streamed programs, and never had the same popularity on the platform as Friends and The Office did on Netflix.
Over just a few weeks this summer, Netflix learned its two most-watched titles last year in the U.S. would soon be moving to rival streaming services: Friends will migrate to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max next year, while NBCUniversal snapped up The Office for its own OTT offering, and will begin airing it in 2021.
During July’s earnings interview, Netflix downplayed the loss of those shows, telling investors that not having to pay for Friends and The Office will free up financial resources for the company to invest in other programming.
“Much of our domestic, and eventually global, Disney catalog, as well as Friends, The Office, and some other licensed content will wind down over the coming years, freeing up budget for more original content,” the company’s shareholder letter read. “From what we’ve seen in the past when we drop strong catalog content—Starz and Epix with Sony; Disney and Paramount films; or second-run series from Fox, for example—our members shift over to enjoying our other great content.”
During the earnings interview, Sarandos said “content comes and goes,” and Netflix will focus instead on convincing users that “we’re going to create their next favorite show.”
Still, the loss of those key library titles was a big blow for Netflix, and the company moved aggressively to land another blockbuster sitcom to fill the hole in its library.