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How Long Did Seinfeld Run
Seinfeld, an American television situation comedy that was among the most popular programs of the 1990s. Revered by critics,
Seinfeld Has Come To Netflix. It Might Not Find A Friends Sized Audience
Aired for nine seasons (1989–98) on National Broadcasting Co. (NBC), which serves as the anchor of the network’s Thursday night “must-see TV” lineup.
Set in Manhattan and famously characterized in one episode as a show about nothing, it featured comedian Jerry Seinfeld, master of observation, playing a fictional version of himself, and his three friends: George, the fictional buddy of Jerry’s childhood, ne mendacious. ‘er-do-well (played with amusing persnicketiness by Jason Alexander); Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, a quasi-career obsessed with the relationship; and Kramer, Jerry’s neighbor, a wild-haired hipster doofus with lots of quirky get-rich-quick and self-improvement schemes (which Michael Richards invested with a weird physical comedy-based freneticism).
In each show several seemingly disconnected plot threads stumble towards a strange intersection (where, as George puts it, ”worlds collide”). These seemingly mundane events and petty conflicts, rooted in the rituals of urban life—finding a parking spot, breaking down, pandering to parents—are endlessly analyzed by Jerry and company, usually in his apartment or coffee shop.
, in the end, is a comedy of manners, whose main points are activated for devotees by a shared lexicon of concepts, secondary characters, and phrases (Festivus, Newman, the Nazi Soup, ‘ ‘master of his domain,” ”Not that there is anything wrong with that”).
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Initially featuring bits of Jerry Seinfeld’s standup routines, the show was co-created by Seinfeld and head writer Larry David, on whom the character of George was based and which he later created and created into a show most improvised his own about nothing,
, on the Home Box Office cable network. Nominated for 68 Emmy Awards and the winner of 10, Seinfeld ranked first or second in the Nielsen ratings from 1994–95 to 1997–98. “People don’t reject money—it’s what separates us from the animals,” Jerry Seinfeld proclaimed as his character in a 1991 Seinfeld episode. At that point, Seinfeld himself was making a comfortable $40,000 per episode as the lead of his two-year-old sitcom, which had recently reached the Top 50 in the Nielsen ratings.
Three decades later, Jerry Seinfeld has gotten more chances to turn down money than his character ever dreamed of. Seinfeld was a huge hit while it was on the air—it earned the comedian $267 million in 1998 alone—and then raked in billions after that year’s finale, first through syndication deals. that broke records, and now as a streaming juggernaut. On October 1, the sitcom arrives on Netflix globally as part of a five-year deal reportedly north of $500 million, thanks both to its enduring observational humor and a streaming war that is on the rise in which classic television shows are being used as crucial weapons. . See how the ’90s sitcom stayed profitable—and how to fit into a rapidly changing television ecosystem.
Given that Seinfeld is famously a show about nothing—it mostly features four New York City friends sitting around, complaining and undermining each other—it’s not particularly surprising that the show initially struggled to win over audiences and executives alike. The sitcom, co-created by Seinfeld and Larry David, premiered on NBC in July 1989—typically a month for networks to drop minor projects—and was originally only picked up for four episodes. The second season received such poor ratings that it was put on hiatus for two months.
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But with the beloved Cheers serving as its lead-in, Seinfeld quickly caught on to become one of the most popular sitcoms in America. By the show’s ninth and final season, Seinfeld was the number one show on primetime, according to Nielsen, making about $200 million a year for NBC. Jerry Seinfeld was getting $1 million per episode—down from the early $40,000—and his three leading co-stars (Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine, Jason Alexander as George and Michael Richards as Kramer) were pocketing $600,000 for every episode. . The finale of the show was watched by 76.3 million viewers, which almost matched the ratings of that year’s Super Bowl.
Could have easily continued its amazing run—in fact, NBC offered to raise Seinfeld’s pay from $1 million to $5 million per episode. But he turned down the offer, saying he wanted to focus more on his personal life. (A few years later, Seinfeld would infamously berate Larry King on air for not knowing his show wasn’t canceled.)
During Seinfeld’s run in the 90s, the television landscape was changing thanks to the mass adoption of cable. By the end of the decade, nearly 80% of American homes had access to cable, with channels like HBO and MTV establishing themselves as cultural hubs catering to more niche audiences. Executives sensed that the era of blockbuster network primetime sitcoms was waning, making proven hits more valuable. In 1998, Turner Broadcasting paid a record sum—more than $1 million per episode—to air reruns of Seinfeld on TBS. “This may be the last blockbuster sitcom ever to come off the networks,” TBS President Bill Burke told New York s.
Seinfeld reruns continued to earn solid Nielsen ratings. By 2010, the show had earned $2.7 billion in reruns, according to Barry Meyer, chairman of Warner Brothers Entertainment. Normally, syndication deals dwindle or end after a show loses cultural relevance—but in 2019, Viacom was still willing to pay around $200,000 to $250,000 per episode for the rights to air the show on -cable.
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These reruns—amounting to 180 episodes—made many people very rich, including Donald Trump’s former right-hand man, Steve Bannon, who had worked in the entertainment business for a period in the 1990s and earned take part in the show. “We calculated what syndication would get us,” Bannon told Bloomberg in 2015. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
But the show’s runaway financial success also caused tension between its stars. In 2003, Louis-Dreyfus, Richards and Alexander refused to participate in the making of a DVD series of the show because they felt they were being taken advantage of. After a hiatus, Seinfeld and the producers agreed to cut the trio on royalties.
While Seinfeld and David would probably be comfortable making syndication money for the rest of their lives, the entertainment industry was about to change once again. In the mid-2010s, new streaming platforms invested millions of dollars to create deep libraries for subscribers to bring to their builds.
In 2015, after a bidding war with players including Amazon and Yahoo, Sony Pictures Television agreed to a domestic deal reported to be between $130 and $180 million with Hulu over six years. “I mean, you could just put the DVD, but I think nobody wanted to do that,” said Jerry Seinfeld at the Hulu upfronts that year during the announcement.
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Netflix probably wasn’t too concerned about not having Seinfeld in its catalog, because the streamer beat all the others thanks to its first-mover advantage, and its comedy bank was formidable, with viewers can switch between The Office, Friends and Cheers. But the major film companies, sensing a change in the winds, began building their own streaming platforms and acquiring properties that held their original rights. In 2019, WarnerMedia outbid Netflix by shelling out $425 million for Friends to put on a streaming service that didn’t exist yet (now HBO Max). Likewise, NBCUniversal essentially paid themselves $500 million to pick up The Office for the Peacock pregnancy platform.
Seinfeld’s deal with Hulu expired in the same year, and because WarnerMedia partially owned the show, many prognosticators expected the company to make an offer to move it to HBO Max. But Netflix outperforms not only them but also Amazon, Viacom and NBCUniversal.
Tim Westcott, media analyst at OMDIA, says Netflix shelled out an eye-popping amount of money for Seinfeld for several reasons. “The main reason people subscribe is choice. You have to have a high volume of attractive content in addition to the originals that stand out, where there is no guarantee that they will be breakout hits, “he says. Comparatively, Seinfeld is a known property; it is comforting, divided into short episodes, and less since her jokes are based on social situations as opposed to historical events.
Seinfeld also has the potential to be a cross-generational draw: it could pique the interest of older, more moneyed subscribers who rewatch the show after decades, as well as a younger generation who are only familiar with -show as a cultural monument—and can be ready to binge all 180 episodes. In 2018, The Office and Friends were the two most watched Netflix shows, with users watching a combined 85 billion minutes, according to Nielsen. A
Seinfeld And Friends Were On The Same Network In The Same Era, But There Wasn’t Any Competition
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