(Bloomberg) — Netflix Inc. has scored a key victory in the battle for classic sitcoms.
The streaming service announced Monday that it won the rights to all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld,” which will come to Netflix globally in 2021. Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Television, the distributor of the show, currently has a deal with Walt Disney Co.’s Hulu.
The bidding war for the show follows battles over the rights to “The Office” and “Friends” — two shows that Netflix is losing to streaming rivals. The “Seinfeld” deal shows that Netflix still has options to acquire popular library content even as Disney and AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia pull back their most popular content to focus on their own streaming services. “‘Seinfeld’ is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said. “We can’t wait to welcome Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to their new global home on Netflix.”
Netflix shares briefly turned positive after the company announced the deal, a sign of how important having hit shows is to investors of streaming services.
While it’s been more than two decades since the final episode of “Seinfeld,” the show has maintained its popularity thanks in part to a long run in syndication on TBS. Reruns of TV sitcoms are still generating large sums of money as younger generations discover them on streaming services like Netflix.
Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal recently paid $500 million over five years for the rights to “The Office,” while WarnerMedia is paying $425 million over five years to stream “Friends” on its upcoming streaming service, HBO Max.
Netflix paid “far more” for the rights to stream Seinfeld, according to the Los Angeles Times. This deal is different than the deals for “The Office” or “Friends” because it gives Netflix global rights. Other programs still up for grabs include “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” but WarnerMedia’s HBO Max may have the inside track to nab those shows. Both of those sitcoms are distributed by WarnerMedia.
Hulu had a $150 million deal to stream “Seinfeld,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. It expires in 2021.