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Why Seinfeld Is Stuck on Sites About Nothing

Stocks in this article: SNE TWX FOXA NFLX AMZN

PORTLAND, Ore.(TheStreet) -- Fans of Seinfeld are angry this day, my friends: Like old men trying to return soup at a deli.

It's been 16 years since Jerry Seinfeld's little show about nothing aired its last episode on NBC, yet the technology being used to air its reruns is as dated as Jerry's high-waisted jeans, monochromatic shirts and portable phone with extendable antenna. Episodes of Seinfeld have been trapped on DVD and in syndication for years, and the only way to stream them is either through the site of a syndication partner -- like Time Warner's (TWX) TBS, for example -- or through Sony Pictures Entertainment's (a unit of Sony  (SNE)) Crackle site and app. Even there, you can only view 10 episodes at a time.

In either scenario, fans are streaming episodes trimmed for syndication and laden with as many commercials as they'd see during their broadcast time slots. At a time when viewers can watch the entire run of AMC's Breaking Bad on Netflix  (NFLX) without commercials and can binge watch HBO's The Sopranos through Amazon  (AMZN) without interruption, commercial-laden Crackle is about as good a vehicle for Seinfeld as the '90s Saab that Jerry drove in his sitcom.

However, the winds of change are finally blowing against the windows of Monk's Cafe. When asked during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session last month if his show would ever make it to Netflix, Jerry Seinfeld replies "You are a very smart and progressive person. These conversations are presently taking place."

In the meantime, why is Seinfeld -- one of the most critically acclaimed and watched shows in television history -- lingering in technological purgatory? As always, the answer lies beneath a large pile of money.

Distribution deals through both Sony and Time Warner have been incredibly kind to Seinfeld and its namesake. It made more than $3.1 billion in syndication since the last episode aired in 1998. Any single episode of the show's 180-episode run has generated $17 million during that span. The last syndication cycle alone earned Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David $400 million apiece.

Just to put those earnings into perspective, Electronic Arts  (EA) -- the video game producer perhaps best known for its Madden NFL series -- made just $2 billion since 1998. Since the Bureau of Economic Analysis changed the way its calculates of the nation’s gross domestic product last year, long-running shows like Seinfeld now qualify as investments. It's part of a $70 billion corner of the economy.

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