NEW YORK — Maybe Facebook and YouTube should have followed the opposite of their instinct.
When Jerry Seinfeld pitched his now-hit series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" to digital executives three years ago, he was told it would never work because people don’t watch long-form content online.
"I had this big meeting at CAA with their really smart digital people," said Seinfeld this past weekend at New York Magazine’s Vulture Festival. "’I can put this thing on the Internet, what do you think I could do?’ They went, ‘No idea.’ "
Seinfeld talked to executives at Facebook and YouTube who were equally unreceptive. "They were all smart, they were well-intentioned," said the comedian. "They all told me this will not work. If you’re over five minutes, they’re not going to hang in there." Today, the series averages 19 minutes per viewer.
Seinfeld has previously noted that Starbucks passed on the opportunity to sponsor the Web series, which now features multiple tie-ins with Acura.
"It’s a nice feeling to invent something where there was no template there before you to figure it out. Nobody knew what to do," Seinfeld added.
Since "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" — which starts its sixth season on Sony’s digital video service Crackle Wednesday (June 3) — was launched in 2012, its episodes have been streamed over 100 million times.
"As a stand-up comedian, you must master that attention span dynamic of an audience," he said. " You’ve got to get their attention and hold it. That’s what you have to do on the Internet to survive."
Discussing Hulu’s recent decision to license all nine seasons of "Seinfeld" — for which it reportedly paid between $125 and $160 million -- the comedian said he found it "hilarious" that people would want to watch this series on another platform. "It really proves the old Marshall McLuhan, ‘The medium is the message,’ " he said. "There’s no new content here. It’s fascinating that they want to watch it this way. There will be a new audience."
Since NBC stopped broadcasting "Seinfeld," it has gotten "much bigger … something we never imagined," he said.