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The streaming service and the broadcast network have inked a massive SVOD deal to bring Will & Grace into the digital age. Hulu, fresh off its Emmy win for best drama for The Handmaid’s Tale, has secured all 194 episodes of Will & Grace and will air new episodes of the NBC revival each week following their initial broadcast this fall.
The original eight-season run will be available on Hulu starting Thursday — a week before the revival launches on NBC. Like Hulu and NBC’s deal for last year’s freshman breakout This Is Us, the network will also retain the library to stream on the NBC App and for pay TV providers with authentication.
“As we gear up for the launch of the upcoming season premiere, I can’t think of a better way to reintroduce Will & Grace to the cultural zeitgeist than by giving audiences the opportunity to watch this historic and hilarious series wherever and whenever they want,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt in a statement. “With its witty comebacks, pop-culture references and social commentary, Will & Grace is one of the most binge-able comedies in television history, and I am certain fans both old and new will jump on this opportunity to devour it.”
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix was also bidding for the library, with Hulu coming out on top for its willingness to share the rights. Retaining at least some stacking rights has become increasingly valuable as networks look to monetize expensive scripted fare in an era of dwindling live viewership.
“There’s no question that Will & Grace has resonated with audiences since the series made its broadcast premiere. To be able to bring such an iconic show into the streaming universe for the first time ever is an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” said Hulu’s newly installed chief content officer Joel Stillerman. “This landmark deal will allow fans to rewatch their favorite moments ahead of the series premiere, as well as bring Will & Grace and its cast of characters to a whole new audience.”
NBC revived Will & Grace for a ninth season after the original cast reunited for a Hillary Clinton-themed election ad. The 16-episode season launches Sept. 28 with the show — created by Max Mutchnick and David Kohan and directed/executive produced by James Burrows — already renewed for another season of 13 episodes.
Speaking with THR earlier this summer, Greenblatt said that he hoped to have a streaming deal for the library before the show returned, confirming that conversations with Netflix and Hulu were underway at the time.
“It’s a little bit of a tricky bet. If the show goes on the air and blows up and we’ve pre-sold it, then we’re kind of stuck. If it overperforms and we’ve left money on the table, that’s a negative,” Greenblatt said of the deal-making process. “If it goes on the air and does OK and we’ve turned away from deals that are already on the table, we may lose money there. We’re trying to look at the different scenarios of what could happen and bet on the best scenario. There’s lots of estimating going on and things to try to make sure we’ve thought through what could happen. The new episodes are separate from the 198 that already exist. Or we could put them all together. The new episodes command a different price than the library episodes. It’s looking at all of these different possibilities. But there’s Hulu, Netflix and our own version of that that we’re in the middle of.”
The executive noted that retaining on-demand rights to the series was a key factor in making a deal for the library, one of the last remaining proven hits that had not yet been sold.
Will & Grace was nominated for 83 Emmys, taking home 16, including best comedy. It joins a large Hulu library that also includes The Golden Girls and Seinfeld.
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