Seinfeld will live exclusively on Netflix. Hulu has the Disney-owned ABC lineup from the last 30 years. NBC will take back The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and the rest of its bingeable sitcoms as fodder for the new platform Peacock. And HBO Max, the roll-up of every WarnerMedia brand into one monolithic streaming rival, is shelling out big bucks for its own licensed audience bait: First it was Friends, and this week, it’s every episode of The Big Bang Theory.
When HBO Max launches in the spring of 2020, the service will boast streaming rights to all 12 seasons of the Chuck Lorre-created sitcom, which dominated TV ratings from its 2007 debut on CBS through its finale earlier this year. All 279 episodes will be available on HBO Max, while TBS has extended its agreement to continue airing the show in syndication through 2028.
“Few shows define a generation and capture mainstream zeitgeist like The Big Bang Theory,” said WarnerMedia entertainment and direct-to-consumer chairman Robert Greenblatt. “We’re thrilled that HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home for this comedy juggernaut when we launch in the spring of 2020. This show has been a hit virtually around the globe, it’s one of the biggest shows on broadcast television of the last decade, and the fact that we get to bring it to a streaming platform for the first time in the U.S. is a coup for our new offering.”
Coup is the key word. In 2018, viewing data suggested that many of Netflix’s most watched shows continued to be popular sitcoms from the last 20 years. In turn, new streaming services hoping to make a dent in Netflix’s hypnotic command of audience are hustling to acquire licenses back from the company. The strategy is costly.
In 2010, The Big Bang Theory’s syndication license price tag was estimated at nearly $600 million. The Hollywood Reporter suggests that the HBO Max deal may have closed at close to a billion dollars. Compare that to the $425 million that HBO Max will pay over five years to bring Friends to the platform, and the assumed cultural relevance of Big Bang comes into focus.
“It’s not every day you get to extend the run of a cultural phenomenon that reaches nearly 35 million viewers on TBS alone every month,” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max and president of TBS, TNT, and truTV. Fair enough.
HBO Max will also support all of HBO’s original series, a swatch of The CW, Cartoon Network, and TBS originals, the Warner Bros. Pictures film library, as well as a handful of new series including a spinoff of WB’s upcoming Dune movie and an animated series based on Gremlins. Sheldon will love it!