×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Inside the Blockbuster $600 Million ‘Big Bang Theory’ Streaming Deal With HBO Max

As one of TV’s most popular shows of the past 20 years, “The Big Bang Theory” was sure to command a huge price when the streaming rights were finally shopped in a red-hot market for iconic comedies with large libraries.

But “Big Bang Theory” wasn’t pitched widely on the open market before the streaming pact with HBO Max and the four-year cable extension with TBS was revealed early Tuesday morning. The reason why is because of a provision in the original megabucks syndication deal that TBS set with “Big Bang” back in 2010.

Even 10 years ago, that agreement anticipated that streaming services could compete with cable channels for rerun rights. The deal granted TBS a number of years of exclusivity for the show, barring “Big Bang” producer Warner Bros. TV from selling the streaming or on-demand rights separate from the cable deal. TBS’ window of exclusivity on the show was extended by nearly a year for every season that “Big Bang” stayed in first-run production for CBS. Once the show ended its CBS run last May, the end of TBS’ exclusivity window was set at 2024.

To have “Big Bang” rights ready for the spring 2020 launch of HBO Max, TBS needed to give up that exclusivity right and get something in return. Although TBS, HBO Max and Warner Bros. TV are all in the same family, the dealmaking was arm’s length and scrutinized by representatives for co-creators and profit participants Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. To make the deal work for all sides — profit participants included — WarnerMedia stepped up with a big number to secure the various rights. It’s unclear exactly how TBS was compensated for giving up its rights but it ends up with an extension through 2028 on the cable rights that otherwise would have ended in 2024.

A WarnerMedia representative declined to comment.

Because of TBS’ rights, it was not feasible for WarnerMedia to shop the show widely to outside buyers. The common parent company for all three players — and common executive leadership for TBS and HBO Max in WarnerMedia Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt — helped ease the negotiation process. But there’s no way WarnerMedia could have lowballed the price for “Big Bang” because the profit participants would have swiftly gone to court howling about self-dealing and punitive damages.

In the end, industry sources said WarnerMedia committed about $600 million over five years for “Big Bang” rights across HBO Max and TBS. The show is prized because it has yet to be exploited in the domestic streaming market, but at the same time there’s no certainty that it will be a binge-worthy hit as a streaming offering. However, “Big Bang” has a sterling track record as the pillar of TBS’ schedule since making its syndication debut on the Turner cabler and local TV stations in 2011.

Tuesday’s “Big Bang” news comes on the heels of other megabucks streaming deals for contemporary classic comedies. Earlier this week Netflix committed an estimated $500 million for the “Seinfeld” archive. HBO Max committed about $425 million to reclaim the streaming rights to “Friends” from Netflix. NBCUniversal’s nascent Peacock service, also set to bow next spring, is said to have committed $500 million to relocate “The Office” from Netflix staring in 2021.

More TV

  • Crazy Rich Asians

    Singapore Sees Rise in Co-productions, Competes for Foreign Projects

    As Singapore’s stature continues to grow in the entertainment world, and with international producers forever on the lookout for exotic but affordable locations, the Asian country is once again in global sights as a major production hub. Singapore’s distinctive topography of cityscapes and countryside, coupled with its unique cultural blend of East and West, has [...]

  • Charlie Corwin and John Penotti SK

    S.K. Global Makes Mipcom Debut With 'Crazy Rich Asians' Under Its Belt

    “To me, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, maybe we should wake up one morning and try something different. How about we try television?’” John Penotti, producer-financier and co-founder of GreeneStreet, one of New York City’s more long-lived independent film companies — it was acquired in 2013 after 16 years — is explaining just how he ended [...]

  • singapore Skyline

    Netflix, HBO, Other Global Content Creators Set Up Asian Bases in Media-Friendly Singapore

    Netflix runs its Asian operations from the swanky Marina One mixed-use development in Singapore, an architectural masterpiece that fits in with the streaming giant’s dedication to Instagrammable real estate. Netflix’s presence in Singapore follows other major media names over the years, including HBO Asia, Vice Media and HOOQ, all of whom have Asian headquarters in [...]

  • Sidney Kimmel film financier

    Television — Sidney Kimmel's Next Act Bows at Mipcom

    During the course of his 91 years, Sidney Kimmel has accomplished a lot. That includes making a few videos for web series “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” “John’s fault,” he says. “He dragged me over there and said, ‘You’ll get a free drink and a dinner out of it.’” John is independent movie producer-financier John Penotti, [...]

  • The Outpost -- "One is the

    Electric Entertainment Launching OTT Channel Electric Now (EXCLUSIVE)

    U.S.-based producer and distributor Electric Entertainment is launching Electric Now, a linear OTT channel that will feature its top series and library content. The channel will have episodes of “The Outpost,” the fantasy-adventure series that has just had its third season greenlit by U.S. network The CW. The new season will head into production in [...]

  • American dollars bills and coinsAmerican cash,

    Entertainment Biz Comes Under Fire for Assistants' Low Wages, Working Conditions

    It’s no secret that many assistants in Hollywood bear heavy workloads for low pay. But the entertainment industry’s labor practices when it comes to those workers have now become the subject of intense social-media scrutiny. TV writer and WGA board member Liz Alper shone a light on the issue Monday with the creation of the [...]

  • Megyn Kelly

    Tucker Carlson Plans Megyn Kelly Interview on Fox News Channel

    Megyn Kelly is returning to Fox News Channel – briefly. Tucker Carlson has scheduled an interview Wednesday with the former Fox News and NBC News anchor, who will make her first appearance on her former employer’s programming since leaving in early 2017. The “Tucker Carlson Tonight” segment would also mark Kelly’s first appearance on a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content