UPDATED: Fox is now confirming that the future of “The Simpsons” is threatened by negotiations with cast members over new contracts. “We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model,” said a statement from 20th Century Fox Television, the Fox entity that produces the show. “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.”
PREVIOUSLY: The future of TV’s longest-running prime-time series (and one of its most beloved), “The Simpsons,” could be in jeopardy now that Fox and the show’s voiceover stars have reportedly hit an impasse in new salary negotiations.
The sensational story – reported on the Daily Beast Web site here — says Fox is digging in its heels vs. the voicers, who have given life to the “Simpsons” characters for 23 seasons.
The issue is reportedly the same one that has dogged previous contract negotiations: The salaries paid to the voiceover stars are an issue, of course, but there’s also the question of whether they should be allowed to share in “back-end” profits, which this series supposedly produces by the truckload when you factor in worldwide rerun rights fees, merchandise, DVDs and all the rest.
To sum up this new snafu: Fox reportedly wants the voicers to take a 45 percent pay cut. But the voicers have countered with an offer to accept a 30 percent pay cut, in exchange for a small percentage of the back-end revenue. According to the story, Fox is insisting that, if the voicers don’t accept their pay cut, production of first-run episodes of “The Simpsons” will cease.
That would be a shame, of course, for millions of us “Simpsons” fans. But the point of view of the network is this (the way we see it, anyway): “The Simpsons” earns millions in rerun syndication, just using the episodes that have already been made. And with ratings for the first-run episodes in decline at 8 p.m. Sunday (this past weekend’s new episode drew 6.19 million viewers – not terrible by network television standards these days, but not great either), Fox execs might believe they no longer have to produce new ones to continue earning money on the reruns – cold-hearted as that might sound.
“Dan Castellaneta [Homer, Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, and others], Julie Kavner [Marge and others], Nancy Cartwright [Bart and others], Yeardley Smith [Lisa], Hank Azaria [Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and Apu], and Harry Shearer [Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, and others] each earn about $8 million annually for about 22 weeks’ work,” The Daily Beast story says.
Fox had no immediate reaction to the story.