After running on cable for nine seasons in the 1990s and having a spot on Hulu from 2015 to 2021, Netflix has purchased the Seinfeld worldwide rights for over $500 million for the next five years.
Seinfeld was a popular television show from the 90s that set a precedent for the next generations of shows to follow. It introduced the first realistic show on air, where the cast talked and acted out situations that occur in most people’s daily lives. Seinfeld introduces four characters who all have a “quirky” factor to their personalities. Living in the Upper West Side of New York, these individuals in their early twenties simply lived a normal life on air. It is most notably known for being “a show about nothing.”
Though seemingly an outrageous amount, Seinfeld was making around $200 million a year for NBC at its peak. Netflix spent over half a billion dollars adding Seinfeld to its site in hopes of fostering the next big generational show like Friends or The Office. Comparable to these other series, Seinfeld reenacts everyday incidences and remains a relatable show for viewers—a major reason it has maintained its popular streak decades after the show stopped.
There has been some controversy concerning Seinfeld joining Netflix on Oct. 1. From the old-fashioned humor to the framing of the show, new viewers and diehard fans have become upset with Netflix’s decisions.
Living in a world that is more aware of sensitivities that may have come from earlier comedies, some have been disappointed in the lack of censorship that came with this new addition.
But the more streaming services adding older TV shows and movies to their platforms, the stricter the audience has been about what to add and even take out of these films. Disney+ changed its own Lilo and Stitch when adding it to its service compared to the DVD version. Instead of having Lilo hide in a dryer, the Disney team created a new animated table in its place because of the presumed controversy to come from the original.
There have been complaints concerning the jokes made in the Seinfeld series, but Netflix has yet to make drastic changes, such as taking jokes out of the original script. Fans argue that taking out jokes will completely ruin the show, as its success in the 90s came from the risky remarks, timing and overall content.
A difference between Netflix’s and Hulu’s streaming of Seinfeld is the quality, which has been up for debate within the world of television critics. On Hulu, Seinfeld was streamed with its original definition but is now available on Netflix in 4K. This caused outrage because some episodes missed jokes due to the cropped screen.
Specifically, the episode “The Pothole” was an iconic event within the series with guest stars and humorous jokes centered around a pothole. Because of the 16:9 framework remaking of the series on Netflix, the basis of the episode—the pothole—was not in frame. Rendering the question: is the improved quality worth the downsides?
Despite the controversy that came from adding Seinfeld to Netflix, the show undoubtedly pioneered all sitcoms that followed.
“Seinfeld is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said.
This show made the 90s spectacular and played a huge part in the development of future TV sitcoms to come. Overall, Netflix’s investment seems to be paying off, as Seinfeld has been placed in the “Trending Now” category for Netflix since its arrival.