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Why Everyone In TV Still Sweats Seinfriends

Netflix lost Friends, and came back with Seinfeld. With peak TV, and so much to watch, some wonder why anyone would pay $500 million for the rights to old shows?

Inspired by Alan Wolk, who took to Cheddar to discuss the value of nostalgic reruns, and the price jump from Hulu’s $130 million Seinfeld acquisition in 2015 to Netflix’s $500 million purchase this week.

I wondered, how does each compare in terms of its contributions to linear TV these days? Using TV ad attribution and measurement company, iSpot, I ran some quick numbers.

While I’d put Seinfeld easily in the funnier category, in terms of its financial contribution, Jerry and company don’t have much on Friends. Unless you’re looking for an older, more gender-balanced audience. Here are the findings:

Friends skews female

You’ll also notice something even more interesting to brands: while Seinfeld looks a lot like a typical TV viewing audience, Friends has a strong under-55 audience.

Not just cash cows, work horses

Now let’s get even nerdier. Since January 1, Friends has generated 29 BILLION TV ad impressions. That’s not people estimated to have seen it, that’s the number of times an ad showed up on a TV screen in between episodes. Seinfeld has delivered 4.8 billion ad impressions to date.

Friends TV ad impression Count: Jan 1-Sept 16, 2019 (iSpot.tv)

For context, an average TV day across all channels and airings carries about 8 billion TV ad impressions. Friends in this ballpark context will carry five days of the year’s TV inventory on its back. Friends and Seinfeld carry a week’s worth of all TV ad inventory, roughly.

Friends generated an estimated $178.3 million for networks since Jan 1. Compare that to Seinfeld at $61.8 million or the critically acclaimed This Is Us on NBC, which generated a handsome $81.6 million this year for 2.1 billion ad impressions on a mere 372 ad airings.

To get to the $178 million mark for Friends, networks ran some 110,223 ad airings. Back of the napkin math: that’s 55,111 minutes or 918 hours or 38 days worth of TV advertising that it’s delivered back to the industry.