Three days ago, THR and other outlets reported that Fox Television Studios announced that they may be forced to cancel The Simpsons after 23 seasons due to the show being not financially viable enough to sustain the high salaries of the cast. Although this didn’t come as a surprise to us because invariably salaries go up the longer a show stays on the air while at the same time the ratings drop the longer shows stay on the air (which means that it is generating exponentially less revenue every season after the first five) it also came as no surprise to us that three days after that story broke that the cast would, as THR put it, “blink” and be willing to negotiate new terms on their contracts with pay cuts as is being reported today.
The reason is simple: Fox Television Studios is right… and the cast knows it. This is, by far, the highest paid cast of any animated television show in history and rightfully so, however, the producers cannot justify to continue to make the show if it costs more to make than it generates in revenue. As talented as the cast is, there’s no chance that they’d ever come close to making Simpsons-money with any other voice acting gigs and although many of them are also talented character actors, most of them aren’t going to be getting anything close to the kind of pay for any work available to them for live-action work, either. We’re also pretty sure that it’s not a coincidence that this story of the cast of The Simpsons being close to a new deal comes out less than 24 hours after the most prolific cast member, Hank Azaria, had his new live-action show Free Agents canceled by NBC after only three episodes. And folks, let’s be completely honest, $400k per episode is a pretty sweet gig for a job you don’t even have to get dressed for.
The truth of the matter is, though, the cast of The Simpsons has a history of holding Fox Television Studios hostage over salaries. In 1998 FTS had threatened to replace the entire cast before the issue was ultimately resolved, in 2004 the cast stopped showing up to the table reads before FTS said “no mas” and met their demands and in 2008 the 20th season was put on hold because they couldn’t come to an agreement with the cast.
Well, this is a new era folks and what the cast didn’t count on is the fact that if the show is canceled, 20th Century Fox stands to make $750 million on the back-end as their syndication contracts that were agreed to almost two decades ago will become void. What happened was that those contracts were signed when cable television wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it is now and of course there was no Netflix streaming, or Hulu, etc. Because of this, 20th Century Fox gave exclusive syndication broadcast rights to local stations in perpetuity until such a time as the show is canceled in first-run. In other words, if The Simpsons were to get canceled, all bets are off. 20th Century Fox can sell the rights to anyone they want which of course means a money bath to them because they’ll have everyone from Netflix to cable networks to your mom begging for the rights to distribute it.
So, the cast was faced with the dilemma that not only do their prospects suck for work as good as The Simpsons, but also that 20th Century Fox, although preferring to keep the show going, will make out just fine if it does get canceled. The cast has done the right thing for everyone all the way around and there’s no question that they all love the show so this is a win-win for them, TFS, 20th Century Fox and of course, us because after 23 years we still love our little yellow family from Springfield and we don’t know how long it will continue to last, but we do know with a fair degree of certainty that Family Guy will do a spoof on the cast salary issues of The Simpsons in the very near future.
It’s official: THR has reported that Fox Television Studios has come to an agreement with the cast of The Simpsons and the long-running show has been renewed by FOX for two more seasons, guaranteeing a 25th season.
Sources say that the cast has agreed to a 30% pay cut, far less than the 45% FTS had originally floated as necessary to keep the show financially viable. Reportedly, the cast was willing to take a far larger cut for a percentage of the profits (we don’t blame them) but FTS stood firm and would not agree to back-end profit-sharing (we don’t blame them, either.).
So, at the end of the day, this was nothing more than a dog-and-pony show by FTS to bring the cast to the negotiating table at the expense of the sanity of the fans.