“Seinfeld” is the latest vintage TV series poised to generate renewed syndication profits through an SVOD sale.
Sony Pictures TV, which handles distribution of the Castle Rock TV-produced sitcom, is in the process of shopping the rights to digital buyers, with Hulu and Amazon said to be among the suitors. The NBC hit has had limited exposure online through airings on Sony’s Crackle, which is ad supported and only has a handful of episodes available at any given time.
The Wall Street Journal noted Friday that Sony is aiming for the “Seinfeld” sale price to top the estimated $500,000 per episode that Netflix paid last year for rights to another NBC comedy classic, “Friends.” Details on the sale are still sketchy but it is expected to be the entire library of 172 episodes, which ran on NBC from 1989 through 1998.
“Seinfeld” hit the SVOD auction block just after CBS concluded a surprisingly rich deal with Hulu for the rights to past and future seasons of “CSI.” That deal coupled with Netflix’s purchase of “Friends” has spurred Hollywood’s majors to more aggressively shop shows that are outside the serialized drama milieu that has driven the growth of Netflix and other SVOD players.
“Seinfeld” was a major hit for local TV stations in the late 1990s after the show bowed in traditional Monday-Friday syndication. The show was so successful that a few years later, TV stations wound up paying more to renew the rerun rights than they did in the first round of dealmaking.
The show also set a then-record for an off-network comedy sale to cable in a $1 million per episode deal with TBS, where “Seinfeld” reruns have been a mainstay since 2002.
By some estimates, “Seinfeld” has generated as much as $3 billion in syndication revenue since 1995. Warner Bros., which acquired Castle Rock as part of its 1996 Turner Broadcasting System acquisition, reaps most of the rewards, but Sony Pictures TV has claimed a good chunk of the “Seinfeld” windfall through a distribution deal that the studio cut with Castle Rock prior to Time Warner-TBS merger.