The Simpsons 'could be shut down'

Pay dispute gets tough

The Simpsons could come to an end after the current series as producers Fox play hardball in salary discussions.

Reports say the studio is ready to shut down the show if the six main cast members refuse to accept a 45 per cent cut in their $8million-a-series pay.

It is not the first time pay disputes have hit the show, and in previous years executives have threatened to replace cast members with soundalikes if they didn’t agree to their terms. But this is the first time a complete shutdown has been mooted.

The actors offered to take a 30 per cent cut in exchange for a tiny percentage of the show’s profits on merchandising and syndication around the globe, but Fox rejected that proposal.

The studio issued a statement saying: ‘23 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.’

With more than 500 episodes in the archive, the producers would continue to net a fortune every year from the shows already made, even if it wrapped up production immediately.

And a separate report by market analyst David Banks will strengthen Fox’s hand even more. He said the News Corp company could receive a $750 million windfall if The Simpsons is cancelled.

Such a move would free the producers to renegotiate US syndication deals which have been in place for 17 years. Those contracts were struck when cable TV was a relatively small player – and internet broadcasting only a dream – so Fox could expect much more favourable terms under a new round of negotiations.

The actors involved in the dispute are Dan Castellaneta, who plays Homer, Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa) plus Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer, who play most of the supporting roles. They have long argued they deserve some slice of the ‘back-end’ revenues to reward their contribution to creating the successful characters.

Published: 5 Oct 2011

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