How Much Money Did Seinfeld Make – “People don’t turn down money – that’s what separates us from animals,” declared Jerry Seinfeld as his character in a 1991 episode of Seinfeld. At that point, Seinfeld himself was making a comfortable $40,000 per episode as the lead sitcom for two years, which recently cracked the top 50 in the Nielsen ratings.
Three decades later, Jerry Seinfeld has gotten more chances to turn down money than his genius ever dreamed of. Seinfeld was a huge hit while on the air—the comedy earned $267 million in 1998 alone — and then into the billions after last year, first through record-breaking syndication, and now as a streaming juggernaut. On Oct. 9, the sitcom arrived globally on Netflix as part of a five-year deal worth reportedly north of $500 million, for both its ongoing observational humor and the escalating war, in which the show uses classic military tools. . Here’s how the ’90s sitcom continued to be profitable — and how it’s quickly adapting to television.
How Much Money Did Seinfeld Make
Since Seinfeld is a famous show about nothing — it mainly depicts four friends living in New York City, complaining and undermining each other — it’s no surprise that the show initially sought to win over viewers and executives alike. This sitcom, which was co-created by Seinfeld and Larry David, premiered on NBC in July 1989 – typically a month for smaller networks to dump projects – and only picked up four episodes for the first time. The second season received such poor ratings that it went on hiatus for two months.
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But with the applause of fans in the lead, Seinfeld soon caught on and became one of the most popular sitcoms in America. During its ninth and final season, Seinfeld was the number one primetime show, according to Nielsen, which earned an estimated $200 million a year on NBC. Jerry Seinfeld was getting $1 million per episode – a far cry from his first $40,000 – and the three main colleagues (Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine, Jason Alexander as George and Michael Richards as Kramer) $600,000 per episode. The final show was watched by 76.3 million viewers, roughly matching the ratings of that year’s Super Bowl.
NBC could easily continue its amazing run – in fact, NBC could raise Seinfeld’s pay offer from $1 million to $5 million an episode. But he turned down the offer, saying that he wanted to concentrate more on his life. (A few years later, Seinfeldt would infamously harass King Larry on the air, not knowing that his shows would not be canceled.)
With Seinfeld’s run in the ’90s, the mass adoption of cable was moving across the television landscape. By the end of the decade, nearly 80% of American households had access to cable, with channels such as HBO and MTV establishing themselves as cultural staples for the mainstream audience. Executives realized that the prime time for the network’s blockbuster network sitcoms was dwindling, thus making proven hits more valuable to everyone. In 1998, Turner Broadcasting paid a record sum of over $1 million per episode—to air Seinfeld reruns on TBS. “This may be the last big hit sitcom to ever come to the network,” 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, president of Warner Bros. Entertainment. Syndication usually slows down or ends after a show loses cultural relevance—but in 2019, Viacom was still willing to pay an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 per episode for the show’s air rights in tow.
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These reruns — which completed 180 episodes — have made many people very rich, including Donald Trump’s former right-hand man, Steve Bannon, who worked in the music business in the ’90s and earned his sweat equity on the show. “We wondered what would happen to us if we did syndication,” Bannon told Bloomberg in 2015. “We made it by a factor of five.”
But the show’s runaway financial success has also caused tension among its stars. In 2003, Louis-Dreyfus, Richards and Alexander refused to participate in the party’s DVD series of the show because they felt they were used. After the runner-up, Seinfeld and the trio of producers agreed on royalties.
While Seinfeld and David might have been comfortable with syndication money for the rest of their lives, the entertainment industry was about to change again. In the mid-2010s, new streaming platforms invested millions of dollars to create deep libraries to attract subscribers to their channels.
In 2015, following the battle with the players between Amazon and Yahoo, Sony Pictures Television agreed to a domestic deal between $130 and $180 million with Hulu for six years. “I mean, you could have put it on DVD, but I guess nobody wanted to do it,” Jerry Seinfeld said at the Hulu upfronts that year in an announcement.
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Netflix was probably too worried about not having Seinfeld in its catalog, because the streamer thanks everyone for the benefit of the prime mover, and its comedy bench was formidable, since viewers can toggle between The Office, Friends and Cheers. But the major film companies, sensing the change in the winds, began to build their own streaming rosters and come to the properties to which they owned the original rights. In 2019, WarnerMedia paid Netflix $425 million for Friends, a streaming service it didn’t yet have (now HBO Max). Similarly, NBCUniversal essentially gave themselves $500 million to capture The Office for the Peacock-carrying platform.
Seinfeld’s deal with Hulu expired that same year, and since WarnerMedia partially owned the show, many prognosticators expected the company to make a high-profile bid to move to HBO Max. But Netflix is not only ahead of them, but also Amazon, Viacom and NBCUniversal.
Tim Westcott, a media analyst at OMDIA, says that Netflix’s eye-popping amount of money for Seinfeld is based on a number of factors. “The main reason people subscribe is choice. You have a large volume of attractive content in addition to the main ones, where there is no guarantee that there will be hits,” he said. they are based on social conditions against historical events.
Seinfeld also has the power to be drawn into the cross-general: it can be simultaneity older, financial subscribers to the show after a decade, as well as younger people who are only familiar with the show as a cultural milestone. binge all 180 episodes if you like. In 2018, The Office and Friends were the two most-watched shows on Netflix, with users watching a combined 85 billion minutes, according to Nielsen. A younger generation of viewers, most notably pop star Billie Eilish, have not been shy about their delight in discovering these enduring classics for the first time.
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The Netflix business for Seinfeld also helps solidify the relationship with Jerry himself. On the platform they already have their rights to talk shows Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and two stand-up specials, Jerry Before Seinfeld and 23 Hours to Kill. In June, Seinfeld announced that he was working on a new Netflix movie titled Unfrosted, inspired by a joke he made about Pop-Tarts.
“This will also help Seinfeld a lot to get things going with Seinfeld himself, as well as the writers and other talent on the show,” Stephen says. “It’s a good investment for many reasons.”
Netflix will need Seinfeld to do well because the company had built a lead over its competitors by closing quickly. Disney+ has amassed the equivalent of more than half of Netflix’s 29 million subscribers, despite being available for less than two years, having been outpaced by more popular shows like The Mandalorian and Loki. HBO Max is even stronger thanks to its deep back catalog of cult TV dramas and blockbuster movies like Godzilla vs. Kong. The second half of this year’s numbers on Netflix show that their growth has slowed somewhat. Their share of worldwide demand, a metric created by Parrot Analytics, fell below 100% for the first time, and they lost 430,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada.
Netflix also sits on the sidelines with larger companies that have merged left and right, rushing to pool money, talent and IP. Discovery merged with WarnerMedia, while Amazon bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Stephen says the lack of diversification makes Netflix more vulnerable than its competitors. “The studios have other businesses to support: linear channels, theatrical movies, theme shows and licenses. And streaming is a small part of the whole Amazon and Lakes empire,” he said. , or if they start losing subscribers, they have no other business to fall back on.”
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And then there’s the concern that in the fast-paced world of social-media, Seinfeld’s humor could become outdated. More
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