By Joe Flint 

HBO Max, the new direct-to-consumer streaming service AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia is launching next spring, has struck a deal for streaming rights to reruns of the hit comedy "The Big Bang Theory," which ended a 12-year run on CBS in May.

Terms of the agreement weren't disclosed. A person familiar with the deal said the five-year agreement is worth close to $500 million. In addition, WarnerMedia's cable channel TBS has extended its current deal for reruns of the show, making the total value of the deal in the region of $600 million, another person with knowledge of the matter said. HBO Max's streaming rights is for U.S. rights only: Netflix Inc. has international rights to the show.

The sale of "The Big Bang Theory" is the latest in a series of big deals for popular reruns as streaming services both existing and planned battle for classic content. Episodes of hit shows often retain their popularity years and decades after their initial run and are seen as must-have programming.

On Monday, Netflix struck a deal--valued at more than $500 million, according to people familiar with the matter--for global streaming rights to the 1990s NBC hit "Seinfeld." That acquisition came after Netflix lost the streaming rights to two of its most popular classic shows, "Friends" and "The Office."

HBO Max acquired streaming rights to the show "Friends" for $425 million for five years starting in 2020, people with knowledge of the agreement said. A new streaming service being launched next spring by Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal acquired streaming rights to "The Office" for five years starting in 2021 in a pact valued at $500 million, people familiar with that deal said.

While the value of "The Big Bang Theory" sale is higher than the sale for "Friends," its per-episode fee is slightly lower. There were 279 episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" compared with 236 of "Friends."

As part of the sale, WarnerMedia's TBS Network, which currently airs reruns of "The Big Bang Theory," extended its deal for cable rights to the show through 2028. Under its current agreement, which runs to 2024, TBS is paying about $1.5 million an episode for the show.

TBS was a major factor in determining how the sale of "The Big Bang Theory" played out. The TBS contract for the show included a provision that it couldn't be sold to a streaming service without the network's blessing, people with knowledge of the matter said. Warner Bros., which handled the sale, didn't shop the show to other streaming services, a person close to the matter said.

Although the deal was done in-house between two WarnerMedia units, both sides needed to make sure there was no "sweetheart" deal or they would risk upsetting Chuck Lorre, the producer of "The Big Bang Theory" and a hitmaker for the company for many years. His other credits include "Two and a Half Men," "Young Sheldon" and "Mom."

People close to the producer said the feeling is that fair market value for the show was achieved given the challenges of the Turner provision.

Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and direct-to-consumer called "The Big Bang Theory" one of the biggest shows on broadcast television of the last decade. He said, "The fact that we get to bring it to a streaming platform for the first time in the U.S. is a coup for our new offering."

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 17, 2019 08:14 ET (12:14 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.