Sony and Seinfeld’s longtime manager made sure that all of “Seinfeld’s” streaming and TV syndication contracts would expire in 2021, setting up an open market
How’s this for a show about nothing? With their mega-“Seinfeld”-to-Netflix deal, which insiders have valued at $500 million-plus, co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld continue to make huge money on a show that last aired a new episode during the Clinton administration.
Both David and Seinfeld stand to make nine figures each, two people with knowledge of the breakdown told TheWrap. One pegged the windfall between $100-$125 million apiece, while a second told TheWrap it was significantly higher.
Representatives for David, Seinfeld, “Seinfeld” studio Castle Rock Entertainment and its parent company Warner Bros., distributor Sony and buyer Netflix all declined to comment on this story.
Of course, David, who famously played New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on the series, and Seinfeld, who played a version of himself, are not the only ones making big bucks.
Warner Bros. TV is taking home a big piece of the pie, due to its ownership of “Seinfeld” producer Castle Rock Entertainment, whose partners include Martin Shafer, Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman, Glenn Padnick and Alan Horn. Those parties are profit participants too.
One of our sources told us that Warner Bros. stands to make about $100 million on the Netflix deal.
The rest of the money gets broken up between the “Seinfeld” cast — Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus all get residuals, as does Seinfeld as an actor — and producers George Shapiro and the late Howard West.
As its distributors, Sony Pictures TV also gets an undisclosed but substantial fee.
“Seinfeld” has been available on Hulu since 2015, but Netflix announced last week that it landed global streaming rights to the comedy beginning in 2021. As if the Netflix deal wasn’t enough, “Seinfeld” also bagged a smaller take from Viacom for cable syndication rights, which also begin in 2021. A source close to the negotiation told TheWrap the Viacom deal was for “more than $250,000 per episode.”
“Seinfeld” represented a unicorn in the TV industry: A classic TV series with a huge episode count (180) that wasn’t tied to a company launching a competing streaming service. The show has already earned more than $3 billion off its cable and broadcast syndication, according to the Wall Street Journal, and Hulu paid out $130 million for its current deal.
While Hulu placed a bid to keep its streaming rights beyond 2021, they didn’t quite throw in the kitchen sink. “Seinfeld” episodes represented less than 1% of all Hulu viewing, a person with knowledge of those statistics told TheWrap.
Sony and Seinfeld’s longtime manager George Shapiro (who declined to comment for this story), four years ago made sure that all of “Seinfeld’s” streaming and TV syndication contracts would expire in 2021, setting up an open market, according to a source. And for Netflix, which is set to lose “The Office” and “Friends” in the coming years to upstart competitors in the streaming field, “Seinfeld” was a much-needed infusion as it prepares to ward off numerous challengers to its streaming throne.
WarnerMedia is dipping into its bank account so “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” can bolster HBO Max when it debuts next year. NBCU’s newly-named streaming service Peacock is built around reruns of “The Office,” and other classic NBC sitcoms, such as “Parks & Recreation,” “Cheers” and “30 Rock.” Oh, and there’s a small little company named Disney that is launching a streaming service with an arsenal that includes classic Disney cartoons and “The Simpsons.”
The general consensus is that these series, years after they went off the air, will act as an anchor for the new services as shows fans already know and love. “Friends” and “The Office” will not only draw an audience but, just as importantly, act as a marketing tool for new content.
And for the creators, producers and studios, that apparently means being able to wring even more cash out of them. And in the case of “Seinfeld,” as ’80s band Dire Straits would sing, that’s a whole lot of “money for nothing.”
TheWrap Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman contributed to this story.