Netflix is about to debut the entire library of “Seinfeld,” offering fans of the beloved NBC sitcom a chance to binge-watch it and renew their love for the show that made Jerry Seinfeld one of the biggest names in television comedy.
At its peak, “Seinfeld” was the most popular show on TV by any metric, running nine seasons with a total of 180 episodes. The massive streaming deal to acquire the “Seinfeld” library will surely line the comedian’s pockets, which is unsurprising given that the show has been doing that for several decades now.
In 1997, ahead of the show’s final season premiere, Entertainment Weekly broke down how profitable the show was for the network. NBC reportedly earned about $200 million a year in gross revenue from “Seinfeld,” with commercials running during the broadcast costing an estimated $550,000 for a 30-second spot. The outlet reports that the show itself was made for about $2 million per episode or roughly $50 million per season. So, with a massive $150 million in profit, it had some cash to throw around. Those costs were upped for the last season, costing the network roughly $30 million more per season. However, that still means that for the bulk of the show’s run, it was essentially a comedic cash cow.
As a result, the cast made out like bandits, with supporting cast members Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Jason Alexander reportedly getting paydays in the hundreds of thousands. Jerry, meanwhile, reportedly inked a deal to get $1 million per episode (the first TV actor to ever make that high of a salary) in light of his producing work. Thus proving that it literally pays to have your name on a TV show.
However, that doesn’t mean that Jerry was raking in that much cash per episode for all nine seasons. In fact, that $1 million benchmark was only for Season 9. Back during the 5-episode first season, Celebrity Net Worth reports that the actor and comedian was only making about $20,000 per episode. While that’s nothing to scoff at, it’s still a far cry from what he would eventually get. For Seasons 3 and 4, that number reportedly doubled. However, by the end of those seasons, it was clear the value that “Seinfeld” was bringing to the table at NBC and he was therefore paid $100,000 per episode for Seasons 4, 5 and 6, a total of 70 episodes. Seasons 7 and 8 saw another bump to $500,000 once it became clear that there was no quenching the audience’s demand for the sitcom. Altogether, the outlet reports he made $60 million from his “Seinfeld” salary alone.
However, the money didn’t stop flowing there.
According to a 2014 report from Vulture, the show went into syndication in 1995, meaning networks could play reruns of “Seinfeld” for a pretty penny, which they were all too eager to do. Jerry Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David reportedly split the lion’s share of those profits at around $400 million per year. That money not only reflects the comedian’s work as an actor but also the behind-the-scenes stake he had in the show, unlike his co-stars.
In total syndication, the show has reportedly made more than $3 billion in profits. Although, all that money doesn’t go directly into Seinfeld’s wallet.
Still, the comedian and actor has clearly made as much money as he’d like to from the show. That was made evident in 2018 when he famously turned down an offer from NBC to reprise his role as the titular character for a $5 million payout for a revival at Peacock at a time when shows like “Roseanne” and “Will & Grace” were seeing immense success with similar projects.
“The most important word in art is ‘proportion,'” Seinfeld told The New York Times at the time.
“How much? How long is this joke going to be? How many words? How many minutes? And getting that right is what makes it art or what makes it mediocre,” he shared at the time.
So, although he’s made a great deal of money from “Seinfeld,” he can be commended for putting the art first. After all, even if he’s done with his “Seinfeld” character, that doesn’t mean the world is.
That’s why Netflix felt it was a safe bet to acquire the entire series’ catalog for a deal that The Hollywood Reporter estimates amounted to roughly $500 million. That price also allows the show to air overseas, whereas similar deals with Hulu merely allowed the streamer to show “Seinfeld” domestically.
Not only will a bit of that money also go into Jerry Seinfeld’s pocket, it continues his working relationship with the streamer, which produced his most recent standup special “Jerry Before Seinfeld” as well as his hit series “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.”