The surefire animated series The Simpsons is in jeopardy for a season 24. Every few years salary negotiations for the show get heated with the actors until a new deal is hammered out. This time around FOX is asking the show’s voice actors to take nearly a 45% pay cut from $8M to just over $4 to keep costs of making the show affordable to make. This obviously isn’t sitting well with the actors who, though make millions have every right to be unhappy about this demand. The voice actors have responded with the offer of a 30% cut but asked for part of the back-end profits, a move that will not seriously damage their wallets after licensing and syndication is taken into consideration.
FOX declined the counter offer.
“Twenty-three 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.” [FOX]
The show is still popular and a moneymaker for FOX even though its ratings have been on the decline the last few years. To add fuel to the fire, rumors are now circulating that the show is worth more to FOX dead than it is new and making fresh episodes.
Confused? Of course you are. Let us explain…
Analysts are reporting that FOX has been hindered by a 17-year old syndication deal that limits syndication to just its local TV affiliates. At the time the deal was struck it made sense as cable wasn’t a significant player. Since then, cable has grown and new opportunities like Netflix and other online services have grown into viable syndication avenues. Cancellation of the show will make this original syndication limitation go away and reruns can be offered to additional markets as well as cable and online avenues. This puts the estimated price per episode around $1.5M, and with 506 episodes of the show existing, that’s $750M worth of loot coming to FOX if they just cancel the show, sell it into syndication and continue to license the show for everything imaginable.
Alright, got it? Now there are two big red flags this throws up…
First, what kinda deal with the devil did FOX make (with basically itself) that stays locked in for 17 years? Most entertainment contracts expire after a certain amount of time and how is Fox not able to negotiate with its own affiliates to fix this issue?
Second, a report like this probably hampers the actor’s ability to renegotiate fairly. Now that they are aware of the fact the show is worth more to FOX dead than alive, their hands will probably be forced to negotiate on FOX’s terms. Yes, they’ll still make millions with FOX’s new offer, but the voices are The Simpsons and it’s a bummer to think after all these years they don’t seem to be treated much better than hired guns on a show that pretty much built the network. Yes they are talking about a lot of money but the profits the show creates are more than able to cover these costs.
So it’s let the millionaires continue to argue with other millionaires? Do people still care that the show is still on the air? Or is it time for something new on Sunday nights at 8pm. Time will tell.
UPDATE: Actor Harry Shearer released a statement about the situation bringing up the valid point that if FOX isn’t able to continue under the “current business” model, what’s their plan for a new one? Great question indeed.