Bazinga! HBO Max snaps up exclusive ‘Big Bang Theory’ streaming rights


On September 16, Netflix revealed that it had acquired the exclusive global streaming rights to the beloved ‘90s sitcom “Seinfeld.” Though no financial terms were disclosed, the deal was said to be worth more than $500 million. Following the news, HBO Max has made a major media acquisition of its own.

On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter (THR) noted that the platform secured exclusive domestic streaming rights to hit CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

The $1 Billion Deal

Like the “Seinfeld” deal, HBO Max did not disclose how much it paid Warner Bros. Television to license “Big Bang.” However, the two WarnerMedia siblings revealed that their agreement is multifaceted. Besides a five-year HBO Max streaming deal, the contract will also keep the series on TBS through 2028.

THR says that WarnerMedia likely paid “billions of dollars” for the rights to stream and broadcast the hugely popular series.

As such, “Big Bang” has likely set a new record for the cost of streaming distribution rights for a TV show. Netflix reportedly paid more than half a billion to lure “Seinfeld” away from Hulu. Similarly, NBCUniversal spent $500 million to move “The Office” from Netflix to its 2020 debuting streaming service Peacock. WarnerMedia previously shelled out $425 million to add “Friends” to its HBO Max streaming library.

Although its price tag is staggering, Warner made the right call in snapping up “Big Bang.”

Before ending its 12-season run in May, the program consistently ranked highly among the most-watched shows on television. In fact, during its final year, it brought in an avenge of 17.3 million viewers per episode. The series’ previous streaming home was the wildly dysfunctional CBS All Access platform.

Given its popularity and relative streaming unavailability, “Big Bang” will make an excellent cornerstone for HBO Max.

The Shape of the Streaming Wars

Following the recent flurry of content licensing deals, the shape of the streaming wars is coming into focus.

Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix, and Peacock will also try to attract consumers with compelling original programming. Indeed, the platforms mentioned above spent hundreds of millions of dollars to hire the best and brightest showrunners of film and television.

Admittedly, it will be interesting to see new content from JJ Abrams (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”), Ryan Murphy (“American Horror Story”), and Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”). However, new TV shows and movies alone didn’t turn the SVOD market into a $36 billion industry. Consumers like streaming platforms because they offer an endless buffet of comfort food television.

Notably, despite offering a several good-to-great original series, “Friends” and “The Office” consistently ranked as Netflix’s most-watched shows. When it comes to on-demand video content, nostalgia and familiarity are undeniable revenue drivers.

Consequently, the service that wins the streaming war will likely do so with a combination of classic and new content. As such, Disney, NBC, Netflix, and Warner have set themselves up for success with their recent acquisitions. Meanwhile, Apple TV+, which will launch without any legacy programming, might want to change its strategy. Even at $4.99 a month, the platform’s lack of classic shows might make it an unexpected flop.