Future of “The Simpsons” in doubt; hundreds of millions of dollars at stake

Could this be the final season of The Simpsons?

The animated FOX sitcom, currently in its 23rd season, finds itself in another tough round of salary negotiations with its voice actors, with 20th Century Fox Television asking the cast to take a 45% pay cut to renew their contracts. That’s from $8 million a year to a little more than $4 million. The cast responded with an offer to cut their salaries by 30% in exchange for a cut of the back-end profits.

But ratings are down 14%, and 20th Century Fox Television put out this statement, saying the show’s financial model doesn’t work anymore:

“23 seasons in, The Simpsons is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world. We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows The Simpsons to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come.”

The financial model really doesn’t work if FOX’s News Corp. realizes it can earn roughly $750 million by ending the series run and striking new syndication deals.

That’s what RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank has alleged, finding that the network’s original syndication deal, signed 17 years ago, prevented FOX from selling the show anywhere but local broadcast TV. “Ironically, the cancellation of the show would allow News Corp. to finally sell off-network syndication rights into cable channels (and potentially to online distributors),” Bank wrote, “potentially allowing for about $750 million of incremental content monetization.”

That figure is based on an average price of $1.5 million for 506 episodes.

Is it worth it to keep the show running for more seasons, or should they take the money and run?

Do you still even watch The Simpsons? Answer below!

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Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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