Just one day after Netflix secured the streaming rights to Seinfeld in a deal reportedly worth more than $500 million, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max has gone one step further, acquiring the rights to The Big Bang Theory in a deal reportedly worth more than $1 billion.
The deal gives WarnerMedia’s HBO Max the exclusive domestic streaming rights for five years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That means another streaming service could carry the show in global markets. The deal also extends the syndication deal between Warner Bros. Television and TBS through 2028.
It’s one of the biggest deals to date, although part of that has to do with the syndication rights on traditional cable, too. NBCUniversal reportedly paid around $500 million for the rights to stream The Office, and WarnerMedia reportedly spent $425 million reacquiring the rights to Friends. The shows will stream on NBCUniversal’s untitled streaming service and HBO Max, respectively.
“We’re thrilled that HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home for this comedy juggernaut when we launch in the spring of 2020,” Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia’s entertainment and direct-to-consumer divisions, told The Hollywood Reporter. “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 US is a coup for our new offering.”
The Big Bang Theory was rumored to be one of the hottest TV shows in the bidding wars between streaming players. Alongside it were rumors that Two and a Half Men, also a Chuck Lorre production, would go to HBO Max. The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t suggest if that deal is still being worked on.
Although The Big Bang Theory airs on CBS, which has its own streaming competitor called CBS All Access, the show is distributed by Warner Bros. Television. This essentially keeps it in the family. Having a “comfort” show like The Big Bang Theory for subscribers on a new service — HBO Max — is important, but extending syndication rights through traditional cable is a big part of this deal.
The big question is a cultural one; people worried that HBO’s brand would be diluted by non-HBO content on a streaming service like HBO Max will have to see how a show like The Big Bang Theory plays to its new subscriber base.