TV show “Happy Endings” may have been axed by ABC several years ago, but the series is living up to its name after finding a second life on streaming services offered by Hulu and Amazon.com Inc.
And it’s not alone. Lots of programs have been rising like Lazarus from their graves thanks to companies such as Netflix, which allow them to connect to a new audience, often made up of younger viewers.
The trend is not only changing the entire entertainment industry, but it also can provide a surprise financial boon to a number of former cast members, producers and writers.
Danielle Prunier, a senior vice president of wealth management for Merrill Lynch in Century City, said she first noticed the situation three years ago after hearing from entertainment industry clients as they watched their old shows become popular on streaming platforms.
“I was getting phone calls from clients saying, ‘I can’t believe this but a whole new generation of kids is watching the show I created that’s no longer on the air,’” she said.
In one blockbuster deal last year, Santa Monica’s Hulu acquired the exclusive subscription video-on-demand rights to all nine seasons of megahit sitcom “Seinfeld” for a reported $160 million – creating huge new streams of money.
While the growing value of online deals is great news for creatives overall – not all of them are able to reap the rewards.
“If a writer, producer, actor has a profit participation in a show, then yes, the second or third life of a TV series on Netflix or Hulu can mean a lot of money to them,” said entertainment attorney Chad Fitzgerald, a partner at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert in Santa Monica. “It depends on how the studio accounts for that money.”
There’s one thing that those who do get new money from their show’s resurrection should not do, advises Merrill Lynch’s Prunier: go on a shopping spree.
“You have to treat it as sacred money,” she said. “When you get additional money you’re not counting on from work you did a long, long time ago, the best thing to do with that money, if you’re not financially complete, is to take control of your future earnings by adding to it.”
Piece of pie
Unionized actors get residuals or rerun payments when their old TV episodes air in syndication or are distributed on DVD, according to Richard Marks, a partner at Beverly Hills entertainment law firm Point Media. While those can be lucrative, Marks added that the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has yet to hammer out terms to compensate them for streaming.
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