The Simpsons currently has a weird syndication deal where reruns can only be sold to local broadcast networks, because cable wasn’t very profitable when the deal was made twenty years ago. Nowadays, cable is a pretty big deal, and Fox stands to earn an estimated $1-2 million per episode from a cable syndication deal – and since there will be at least 559 episodes, that deal could be worth more than $1 billion.
This was a sticking point during the contract renegotiations in 2011, when the voice actors demanded a share in the profits (and didn’t get it). It was widely assumed a cable deal could not be negotiated until after the show is cancelled: an analyst quoted in Forbes said “the cancellation of the show would allow [Fox] to finally sell off-network syndication rights into cable channels,” and an Adult Swim bumper seemed to echo this (“Now put that thing to bed, FOX / so we can buy it”).
Well, apparently that’s no longer the case: TV Guide says Fox is getting ready to sell The Simpsons to cable within the next year.
No one really knows why this is happening now:
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.
Could this be a stealthy way of announcing the show is ending??? Don’t get your hopes up: according to Variety, a cable deal does not mean The Simpsons will end:
However, unlike most syndication deals, the “Simpsons”-cable syndication does not spell doom for the program as a whole.
A source at Fox tells Variety that the net has no plans in the near term to cancel the animated skein, leaving “The Simpsons” potentially syndicated on both broadcast and cable, while still rolling out new episodes on Fox.
Given that the only hope for The Simpsons to finally, mercifully end seemed to be Fox deciding getting $1 billion now is more cost-effective than spending $70 million for yet another season, there no longer seems to be any obstacles preventing The Simpsons from going on for another quarter-decade. If all goes according to plan, the entire production will be fully automated by Season 39, requiring no human input.