'Seinfeld' still rolling a decade later

Bus tour to help extend series' life set for 26 cities

NEW YORK -- Stroll around Manhattan's Union Square these days, and you come across billboards touting the start of the fall TV season with promotions for the likes of "Heroes," "The Mentalist" and "Private Practice." But on Thursday, an evergreen stole the spotlight here -- "Seinfeld."

The cult sitcom may have ended its primetime TV run a decade ago, but Sony Pictures Television expects one of TV's most valuable franchises can extend its longevity in syndication, on DVD and in new media with a bus tour targeting the key 18-49 demo.

"The show is every bit as compelling today as it was during its original run," said Robert Oswaks, president of marketing at Sony Pictures Television, which has the domestic rights to the show. " 'Seinfeld's' continued strength with the adults 18-49 demographic, coupled with its growth among a new generation of viewers, is a testament to the program's superior quality, timelessness and longevity."

Sony wouldn't say how much it is spending on the bus tour and what the financial benefit could be. But Oswaks said the 26-city tour of colleges and other locations -- Union Square is a backyard for NYU students -- started a few weeks ago, is about cultivating the next generation of "Seinfeld" fans in the interactive ways they enjoy rather than traditional magazine ads and the like.

"There are tens of millions of college students who were toddlers when the show was on the air and still kids when it went off the air," he explains, pointing particularly to the 70 million-strong "millennial" demo of 10- to 28-year-olds. "Our goal is to keep the show popular on DVD, in syndication and any future digital sell-through or other opportunities."

Some fans here wondered out loud if the "Seinfeld Campus Tour" meant the show could return to TV or as a one-off movie. "I don't think there's an opportunity to bring it back," Oswaks said, pointing to the cast's busy schedules, among other things.

After nine seasons on NBC, the final episode of "Seinfeld" in May 1998 drew 76 million viewers. The show won 13 Emmys, and Sony executives highlight that "Seinfeld" remains a top 5 syndie show and has outperformed current network sitcoms among men 18-49, including "My Name Is Earl," "The Office" and "Two and a Half Men."

The show went into syndication in 1995 with a record 210 stations. Research firm SNL Kagan estimates that "Seinfeld" brought in revenue of $4.6 million, $5.2 million and $5.3 million per episode in TV station syndication cycles 1, 2 and 3, respectively. For cable syndication, the first cycle brought in $1 million per episode, it estimates.

The sitcom also has done strong DVD business with more than 9 million DVDs sold in the U.S. and, according to Home Media Research, an estimated $456 million in revenue.

The "Seinfeld" bus entertains with show memorabilia and video highlights. Fans can also try out a "Seinfeld" DVD game and get their picture taken with cutouts of the show's stars. Importantly for reaching young fans, laptops show off the MySpace and Facebook presences of "Seinfeld."

In a cross-promotional effort, visitors also have an opportunity to win Sony Video Walkmans and digital cameras by playing games with a "Seinfeld" twist.

Among the dozens of fans checking out the bus early Thursday was Michael, 14, who was turned on to the show by his parents. "It's just like reality and really funny," he said. He then got an autograph from his favorite "Seinfeld" character, "Soup Nazi" Larry Thomas, who was on hand.
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