Netflix has just scored a major content deal that could help it stem the loss of subscribers as competition among streamers heats up. The company announced it has acquired the global streaming rights to the popular sitcom “Seinfeld,” which will bring all 180 episodes of the Emmy winner to Netflix subscribers starting in 2021.
The timing of this addition is critical for Netflix, as “Seinfeld” will go to air the same year that the streamer loses one of its most-watched pieces of content: re-runs of “The Office.” It also will follow Netflix’s loss of another iconic sitcom — “Friends” exits the service in 2020.
Despite the age of the content in question, these are still highly expensive deals because of the evergreen nature of the shows and their ability to reach new fans who weren’t old enough to have watched the shows when they originally aired.
Beyond that, these re-runs have massive audiences. For example, Nielsen found that “The Office” is the most-watched show on Netflix, despite the streamer’s multi-billion-dollar investments in its own original content, which is far more heavily promoted across its platform.
And that original content isn’t performing well, as of late, making it even more critical for Netflix to hold on to at least some of its classic library content. Last quarter, the company lost U.S. subscribers for the first time since 2011. The company didn’t cite increased competition as a factor, as many of its challengers — like Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max — have yet to launch. Instead, it pointed to price hikes and a programming slate that failed to attract subscribers.
Meanwhile, Netflix was recently outbid for rights to “The Office,” as NBCU paid $500 million to pull the hit from Netflix when its deal ends in 2021. Netflix also lost “Friends” to WarnerMedia, which paid $425 million to bring the classic show to its new service HBO Max for five years, starting in 2020.
Given the “Seinfeld” deal with Sony Pictures Television is for worldwide distribution to Netflix’s roughly 150 million subscribers, its price should be in that same ballpark, if not quite a bit higher (Netflix isn’t discussing deal terms).
“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, chief content officer for Netflix, in a statement. “We can’t wait to welcome Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer to their new global home on Netflix.”
Classic sitcoms aren’t the only things Netflix has been dropping, as of late.
It also this year exited the Marvel superhero business with the cancellations of “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher,” after having already axed “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil,” ahead of the launch of Disney+. And it has canceled a number of other under-performing series, including “The OA,” “Tuca & Bertie,” “Designated Survivor,” “She’s Gotta Have It” and its remake of “One Day at a Time.”
The new deal with Sony Pictures Television will bring “Seinfeld” to Netflix for the first time, and follows other efforts between the streamer and comedian, including “Comedians in Cars” and “Jerry Before Seinfeld.”
“Seinfeld is a one-of-a-kind, iconic, culture-defining show. Now, 30 years after its premiere, Seinfeld remains center stage,” said Mike Hopkins, Chairman Sony Pictures Television, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Netflix to bring this beloved series to current fans and new audiences around the globe.”