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Seinfeld is heading to Netflix in 2021

Seinfeld screengrab (Credit: Seinfeld/Sony Pictures/Facebook)

Friends might be leaving Netflix next year, but the streaming service just landed another giant beloved series: Seinfeld.

Seinfeld will be available to stream on Netflix beginning in 2021, the company announced today. That’s when the show’s contract with Hulu (now owned by Disney) comes to an end. It’s unclear how much Netflix paid for the show, but it was rumored to be in the same wheelhouse asWarnerMedia’s Friends deal, which was reported at $425 million.

“Seinfeld is a one-of-a-kind, iconic, culture-defining show,” Sony Pictures Television Chairman Mike Hopkins told Los Angeles Times. “Now, 30 years after its premiere, ‘Seinfeld’ remains center stage. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Netflix to bring this beloved series to current fans and new audiences around the globe.”

Although Seinfeld is a WarnerMedia-owned property (it’s similar to Friends, which aired on NBC in the ‘90s, but whose rights ended up with WarnerMedia at some point), Sony Pictures Television ended up with the rights to the show. Rumors suggested that Netflix was bidding on the series alongside WarnerMedia (HBO Max), Comcast (an untitled NBCUniversal streaming service), and Hulu.

The original deal for Seinfeld in 2015 cost Hulu $160 million.


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A digitally constructed Will Smith co-starred alongside a non-digital Will Smith in the 2019 action film Gemini Man. | Paramount Pictures How big-budget moviemaking is veering into Black Mirror territory. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the “black mirror” of the popular anthology series Black Mirror was a screen, or rather, all the screens we surround ourselves with: phones, tablets, computers, TVs, and, increasingly, futuristic devices built by massive corporations that monitor our movements and preferences and words. We buy these black mirrors, welcoming them into our homes and lives and letting them — true to their name — reflect ourselves back to us. And as we know all too well, those reflections sometimes betray our darkest impulses. Unsettling reflections are not the black mirrors’ fault. Gadgets are merely assemblages of wires and metal and glass. 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And while humans have always manufactured beauty standards, this one’s a little different, because it sounds as if it’s ripped directly from a Black Mirror episode or a sci-fi blockbuster — a clear example of humans being altered by the machines they created. “Instagram face” is obviously an extreme case, as most people probably wouldn’t (or couldn’t) go so far as to physically change their face because a computer, in essence, told them to. But it’s nonetheless become clear that the long-awaited future in which computers transform our humanity has undeniably arrived. And there’s at least one very specific realm in which that future is steadily becoming more and more of a threat: the movies, and how they’re being made as Hollywood increasingly signals its willingness and even desire to cede control over its product to emerging technologies. 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An algorithm that drives movie creation is likely to shut out a crucial factor in art One of the six biggest studios in Hollywood, Warner Bros., recently announced a deal with Cinelytic, a startup in Los Angeles that uses algorithms and data to predict a film’s success before the film is even made or greenlit. Cinelytic’s technology uses variables like genre and specific performers to predict how much money a movie could make, based on how those variables typically perform in different markets. So if you want to gauge how a movie will ostensibly perform with Michael B. Jordan instead of Oscar Isaac in the starring role, you can do that. Just plug and play. Warner Bros. and Cinelytic have claimed the technology will be used only in marketing and distribution decisions, or maybe to help executives figure out which projects to greenlight. They won’t, they say, let an algorithm govern the decision-making process entirely; humans will still be involved. But it’s difficult to believe this costly algorithm the studio has licensed won’t ultimately exert a fair amount of influence over which projects move forward and which ones don’t, regardless of whether the company plans for it to do so. In his 2010 book You Are Not a Gadget, programmer and virtual-reality pioneer Jaron Lanier argues that our digital technologies have baked-in biases that run against the grain of what it means to be human. “When the developers of digital technologies design a program that requires you to interact with a computer as if it were a person, they ask you to accept in some corner of your brain that you might also be conceived of as a program,” Lanier writes. “When they design an internet service that is edited by a vast anonymous crowd, they are suggesting that a crowd of humans is an organism with a legitimate point of view.” In other words, the digital systems that we create and interact with tell us how to be human, then train us to be human in a way that aligns with their priorities.“Different media designs stimulate different potentials in human nature,” Lanier continues. “We shouldn’t seek to make the pack mentality as efficient as possible. We should instead seek to inspire the phenomenon of individual intelligence.” The “phenomenon of individual intelligence” is as near a description of the genius of art-making as I’ve ever heard. Certainly, filmmaking is collaborative, and movies aren’t “individual” products (something even the most ardent supporter of auteur theory would admit). But they’re not the result of groupthink or a hive mind, because individual intelligences are at play in the collaboration. In a good film, creative, accomplished, and opinionated artists are able to leave their thumbprint, or a lot more, on the finished product. In general, the more a movie seems created by consensus — as many big franchise flicks designed for maximum box-office earnings are — the less good it is. It’s designed to please many and challenge few, not for any philosophical reason but because that’s what makes a lot of money. The almighty buck rules. Which is fine. Hollywood movies have always occupied the weird space between mass culture and rarefied art. They’re a young art form, barely over a century old, and designed to entertain as well as to interrogate, confront, and move the audience. They’re also really expensive to make, so they’ve got to bring in a lot of money to be successful. And they’re still, on the whole, made by people who really love movies: directors and writers and actors and producers who eat and breathe and sleep cinema. Even bad or mediocre filmmakers get excited by interesting movies, films that bend their brains and make them see the world differently. Niko Tavernise/Netflix Martin Scorsese on the set of The Irishman. Niko Tavernise/Netflix Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in a scene from The Irishman. Niko Tavernise/Netflix The cast of The Irishman. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were digitally de-aged in the film. And how can a filmmaker create such movies? 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Want a PG-13 rated 72-minute action-comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Adam Sandler, set in Paris with, say, a liberal bent? Click, click, click. You got it. So what? But who cares, right? It’s just movies. I’m professionally obligated to care, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still find these possibilities disturbing. And I hope others will too. Because in a world where we can fully control our own experience with art, the echo chambers we often find ourselves in — what media theorist Thomas de Zengotita refers to as realities that “flatter” us because they shield us from anything that might disturb or discomfit or surprise us — are only going to get more soundproof. For better or worse, movies and TV shows are still a place where we can find common ground. Just go listen to any conversation at a party that has inevitably turned to what people have been watching. Movies and TV shows are also where we bump into people who think and act and believe and look different from us, a key reason why more risk-taking, not less, is a great thing for both the art form of cinema and the people who watch it. But technologies that encourage the creation of entertainment via algorithm, based on what we already prefer, are caving to the black mirror’s worst tendencies. Because let’s face it: Many of us tend to opt for comfort over challenge. Many of us tend to watch the same TV shows over and over, or stick to the same safe movies, unless someone tells us we’ve got to see this new, strange thing that’s just come out. Word of mouth (and good advertising and reviews) is what drives a movie like Get Out or Parasite or Knives Out to become a hit and keeps filmmakers engaged and studios on their toes. But a lot of people wouldn’t have gone to see those movies if others didn’t insist they step outside their comfort zone. 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