EMAILED ON September 20, 2019 BY Emily Kelley

Paying a premium for nostalgia: Streaming services drop big bucks on old-school TV shows  

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for hulu

As entertainment giants race into the subscription stream scene (Disney, HBO, Apple, and Comcast are all rolling out new platforms), they’re all looking to gain an edge in an increasingly saturated market. In particular, they’ve got their eyes — and their pocketbooks — trained on old-school bingeable content.  

[Ordering delivery and staying] in with the old, in with the new 

Networks already shell out serious coin for high-quality original content — but that’s small couch potatoes compared to their spending on the old-school shows we know and love. Recently, Netflix paid $500m for Seinfeld, WarnerMedia paid $1B for The Big Bang Theory, and Comcast paid $500m for The Office (….and is teasing us with a reboot. Rude if false).

Totally worth it. …Or is it? 

Here’s the crazy thing: It’s tough to predict the ROI here because, as streaming expert Dan Rayburn explains: “We have no actual information about what creates or reduces churn.” 

In the Seinfeld-era days, shows’ values were based on ratings and ad rev. But there’s no way to determine exactly why customers sign up for a given streaming platform — or whether one well-loved show can hook millions of new subscribers. And maybe the current nostalgic, Chandler-Bing-loving audience will lose interest as they age — making these giant purchases kind of worthless. We’ll just have to wait and watch.