The deal comes on the heels of a blockbuster new deal between Sony and Netflix for the streaming rights to the beloved NBC sitcom that also begins in 2021.
“Seinfeld” reruns have been a staple of TBS cabler since 2002. TBS set a then-record in 1998 by paying $1 million an episode for cable rights for the show, which was then a huge hit in broadcast syndication. Sony Pictures handles licensing deals for “Seinfeld” through its decades-old distribution pact with series producer Castle Rock Entertainment, which is now part of Warner Bros.
Viacom’s Comedy Central, TV Land and Paramount Network channels will share rights to all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld,” the 1990s smash starring Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
An undisclosed number of episodes will be available to the Viacom channels for authenticated streaming. But given the estimated $500 million price tag that Netflix forked over to nab “Seinfeld” from Hulu in two years, Viacom’s cablers likely have very limited on-demand rights.
The deal was hammered out by Barbara Zaneri, exec VP of Viacom Global Program Acquisitions, and Flory Bramnick, exec VP of U.S. Distribution for Sony Pictures Television. The partners invoked a number of “Seinfeld”-isms by noting in the announcement that the rights were sold “for an undisclosed sum and a loaf of marble rye after a spirited Festivus feats of strength competition.”
The Viacom-“Seinfeld” deal is the latest example of the renewed value of long-running contemporary comedies at a time when streaming and linear outlets are shelling out huge dollars to lock up coveted library product.