Yesterday, it was reported that The Simpsons was in danger of being cancelled unless the voice cast agreed to a hefty 45% pay cut. Why would Fox be so draconian now, when the show is still doing relatively well? It turns out that it actually might be in the network’s best financial interest to give the show the axe.
It’s all due to old syndication deals and the value of the show’s extensive back catalog. 17 years ago, Fox signed an original syndication deal that prevented them from selling the show into any other distribution mechanism but local broadcast. That’s nowhere near as lucrative a place to sell old shows than cable or even to online distributors. So essentially, in order for Fox to, say, sell old Simpsons reruns to Comedy Central or Netflix, they’d need to cancel the show first to get out from the original syndication deal. And with so many episodes in the catalog, canceling the show could be worth upwards of $750 million to the network.
It’s kind of a lousy way for a show to go out, just existing for so long that the 500+ episodes in the archives are worth far more than any potential new episodes, but then, isn’t it time for this show to say goodbye? It’s been 23 years. It’s barely the same show that it was in the early 90s, and this may be the most merciful way for it to end. It’s either this or it just keeps plodding along until literally no one cares anymore, forcing a ratings-based cancelation and leaving Fox with another couple dozen mediocre episodes. Unlike many canceled shows, you can’t argue that the writers have so many stories left to tell with these characters. And if canceling the show means we may get an all-Simpsons cable channel or that all past seasons will come to Netflix? I say cancel away.