The Simpsons has been on for nearly 25 years, but reruns of the show have never aired on cable during that time… until now. TV Guide reports that Fox is nearing a deal to sell the long-running series into syndication to a cable network sometime soon. The network’s other animated shows like Family Guy, King of the Hill, and American Dad have been airing reruns on cable networks like TBS and Adult Swim for years, but The Simpsons has only been aired on broadcast TV due to an exclusivity contract signed when the show was first sold into syndication in 1993. What’s interesting here, though, is this section of TV Guide’s story:
“With the company now mulling a cable sale, it’s unclear what has changed. There has been speculation that The Simpsons might end after next year’s 25th season, which would mean the iron-clad exclusive deal with stations would change. Or perhaps Twentieth has found a way to alter the existing broadcast-syndication deal with TV stations and finally add cable to the mix.”
“Analysts have long said that once The Simpsons ends its run on Fox, Twentieth will be able to sell its more than 530 episodes to a cable network for as much as $1.5 million per show. That would add nearly another $1 billion to what’s already a multibillion-dollar franchise.”
This is purely speculation, but these two excerpts both point to the cable deal for the show being most likely – and most lucrative – if the show ends its run. In the fall of 2011, Fox renewed The Simpsons for seasons 24 and 25 following a public contract dispute with the voice cast that almost ended the show. “We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model,” Fox said at the time, and the cast is believed to have taken a sizable pay cut with the season 24/25 deal.
Fox has yet to renew the show for a 26th season, and they’ll probably have another contract dispute if they do, so this massive “end of the show” syndication deal might just make everyone more money than continuing it would. For next season, the show is set to host a Futurama crossover and to do a crossover with Family Guy that’ll air on that show, which feels like end of the show, bucket list-type stuff. Keep in mind that this is all just conjecture and that the new cable syndication deal could be possible somehow while keeping new episodes of The Simpsons running on Fox for decades to come.
UPDATE: Variety reports that the show could be syndicated on both broadcast and cable while Fox continues to roll out new episodes and that a Fox source tells them there are no plans to cancel the series anytime soon, but Fox would have to say that either way at this point.