Streaming outlets are making a play to be the new TV networks. The latest big streaming deal: "Seinfeld" on Hulu, which some outlets are pegging at around $180 million over five years.
"It puts it on a par, maybe a little bit above, depending who you talk to, with the deal that Netflix did with 'Friends,'" Vulture's Joe Adalian tells the Frame. "Old content that's a brand name has a lot of name brand value. ... If you scan the list of the top 100 shows on cable any given night, you will see reruns of 'Friends,' 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' of 'Full House,' shows that have been off the air for 20 years, but among people between the ages of 18 and 34, they're flocking to these shows."
"Seinfeld" has been around a bit longer than others and isn't quite as popular, but it has an appeal to not just young people but those in their 40s and 50s, Adalian says.
"Whereas Netflix has sort of centered on the Millennials, I think Hulu is trying to be, like broadcast, to be a little bit broader, and I think 'Seinfeld' is the perfect way to do that."
Still, online numbers still aren't at broadcast levels, Adalian says.
"You can still get 20 million people to watch a Bruce Jenner interview in three days on ABC, and that's bigger than any of these other streaming services — that we know of. We don't know how many people are watching Netflix, of course, because they don't tell us."
Streaming services can have heart, though: the percentage of people watching streaming shows regularly is trending way up.
"Will it replace linear TV? A lot of people think so. Someone like Ted Sarandos, who runs Netflix, thinks it's gonna happen within five years. Other people say 10, 15, but it's very clear that we're moving to a world that's non-linear."
Hulu was one of the first big names in the streaming world, Adalian says, but they got lapped by Netflix and Amazon Prime due to those services going aggressively after original programming.
"Hulu, early on, was just about taking what happened on TV last night and repurposing it on Hulu, and putting ads in there," Adalian says. "But now, under new leadership, under a new CEO, and under a new chief creative content officer, Craig Irwin, they've really in the last six months stepped up their game."
They're acquiring original program, including a James Franco show from Stephen King, as well as acquiring existing content, becoming the online home for shows from FX and future shows from AMC. They're not getting "The Walking Dead," but they will be hosting the show's spinoff.
Hulu has some advantages drawing people like Amy Poehler and filmmaker Jason Reitman to do new shows online.
"Broadcast TV has limited bandwidth — they can only do so many shows. They require you to do a certain number of shows every year, and they live or die on ratings. Hulu doesn't, and Netflix doesn't either. It allows a show to sort of go on and find an audience at its own pace."
The downside: Less money.
"The potential big upside on the payday isn't nearly as big as it is on broadcast. If you create a broadcast hit like, for example, 'The Blacklist,' which is on NBC, you're going to make a lot, lot, lot, lot more money than Amy Poehler's going to make off of her show on Hulu."