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.
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As reported here last September, Fox tried to stop a German brewer from producing an unauthorized version of Duff Beer, but were unsuccessful because their trademarks on Duff Beer “weren’t registered for an actual beverage.” So now that a Fox-approved Duff Beer actually exists (despite creator Matt Groening being publicly against it as recently as a year ago), their legal department should have no problem winning future trademark disputes, right?
So there’s this service called Aereo that streams broadcast television (you know, the stuff that you can get for free on your TV) on the web for a monthly fee. The “Fab Four” networks (Fox, CBS, UPN, and the DuMont Network) aren’t too happy about it, since none of that monthly fee is going to them. It also undermines the princely retransmission fees they get from cable & satellite providers, because then a cable company could say to them “hey, that internet service gets your content for free, why can’t we?” and they don’t really have a good answer to that. Naturally, they tried to sue Aereo out of existence, except it didn’t work out because the courts say Aereo is a-okay-o.
Well, Fox isn’t having any of that. A guy from their parent company News Corp. is straight up threatening to take the Fox network off the air and have it become a cable company if Aereo is allowed to continue operating:
“We need to be able to be fairly compensated for our content,” Carey said. “This is not an ideal path we look to pursue, but we can’t sit idly by and let an entity steal our signal. We will move to a subscription model if that’s our only recourse.”
…he said, twirling his whimsical mustache evilly. Does News Corp. train its executives to sound like supervillians or does it come naturally to them?
This move would leave millions of viewers who watch via antenna (many of them economically disadvantaged) deprived of their favorite Fox shows like The Cleveland Show and The Following. If the other networks follow Fox’s lead, this could mean The End of Television As We Know It.
In a weird twist, Aereo is backed by Barry Diller, the founder of the Fox network who the evil corporate plutocrat Mr. Burns is partially based on. Is he a bad enough dude to bring down the very network he created??? Only time will tell…. [Bloomberg]
Fox hired a guy from Adult Swim to find out how to better compete with Adult Swim and his solution was for Fox to make their own Adult Swim. Brilliant! The two hour programming block will air on Saturdays at 11pm starting next year.
Basically, they’re grabbing up all the “edgy” cartoons they don’t have room for on Sunday nights (which I will henceforth refer to as “Animation Domination Prime”) and dumping them on Saturday nights, formerly the home of MADtv, Wanda Sykes’s late-night talk show, and the remaining episodes of Sit Down, Shut Up they were contractually obligated to air. Nobody knows what’s on there now. The audience for this thing will primarily consist of Adult Swim viewers who forgot Saturdays are when Adult Swim airs The Animes.
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According to Reuters, Fox is finally weaning off their bad Simpsons-renewing habit, and have declared they they only want one more season of The Simpsons at most, if the voice actors agree to their “draconian” pay cuts. That would be Season 24, the 2012-2013 season, falling just short of the unthinkable 25 year milestone (unless you go by the Simpsons’ Tracey Ullman Show debut, which marks its 25th anniversary this April). But keep in mind these are anonymous executives, in the middle of some big-time renegotiations where they repeatedly use the press as a conduit to spread rumors and innuendo to get a more favorable deal, from a TV network that once straight up lied said their plan “is not all Seth [MacFarlane], all the time” while giving him three and maybe four shows, which happens to be a subsidiary of one of the most cartoonishly evil corporations in the world, so take that with a pillar of salt.
Also according to these unnamed executives, “the show is no longer profitable for the network.” Forbes asked a bunch of analysts, and found that ending the show would likely more profitable for Fox than continuing it:
The freedom of selling the show into syndication on cable or even to online streaming providers like Netflix or Amazon could generate $1-2 million an episode for a show that has produced nearly 500 of them, RBC estimates.
Those revenues – around $750 million of incremental content monetization – are likely to come across a number of years, because of the original syndication deal and the likely preference for smoother earnings, “but the upside is real.”
RBC estimates broader syndication for The Simpsons post-cancellation could add 10 cents per share to News Corp.’s bottom line.
So now we appear to have reached the point foretold by Troy McClure, who once asked, “Who knows what adventures [the Simpsons]’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?” Extra credit goes to former Simpsons writer Greg Daniels, who back in 2008 predicted the show would end when “the per episode syndication price falls below the cost of producing an episode.”
Oh boy, it’s that lovely time every three years or so when the Simpsons cast re-negotiate their contracts with Fox! And this time the stakes HAVE NEVER BEEN HIGHER. The Daily Beast reports that this time the voice actors are asking for a pay cut, instead of their usual pay raise. Say whaa??? Have we wandered into Bizarro World??? No, while they’re asking for a 30 percent pay cut, it’s because they want a piece of that hot, hot syndication and merchandise action worth billions of dollars in CA$H MONEY. Fox doesn’t want to give up that money (after all, their parent company News Corp. has tons of phone hacking victims to pay off), and this time they’re threatening to CANCEL THE SIMPSONS.
Difficult bargaining is nothing new for the show, which was created by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening. Fox studio execs have occasionally threatened to replace uncooperative cast members with sound-alike actors. But for the first time in nearly a quarter century of haggling, the executives have insisted that if the cast doesn’t accept a draconian 45 percent pay cut, The Simpsons will die an abrupt death as a first-run series.
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Back in 2007, rival media conglomerates News Corporation and NBCUniversal put aside their differences and joined forces to create Hulu, a video site designed to combat rampant piracy. If you miss your favorite shows, you can just catch ’em the next morning on Hulu for free in exchange for watching some commercials. It’s been a big success, and something that many viewers have become accustomed to. Well, if you’ve been using the service to watch Fox shows, THE FREE RIDE STOPS HERE, BUCKO. Recently, Fox changed its rules so that Hulu viewers will have to wait eight days to watch new episodes from Fox shows, unless they pony up the cash for the subscription service Hulu Plus or prove they pay for DISH Network.
Unsurprisingly, people have turned to piracy to get their fix:
Over the last week TorrentFreak tracked two Fox shows on BitTorrent to see if there was an upturn in the number of downloads compared to the previous weeks, and the results are as expected […] During the first 5 days, the number of downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen increased by 114% compared to the previous 3 episodes. For MasterChef the upturn was even higher with 189% more downloads from the U.S.
And keep in mind the fall season hasn’t started yet; these trends may increase once shows like House and The Simpsons return to the airwaves.
Admittedly, ad revenue from Hulu is paltry compared to television – former NBC executive Jeff Zucker once quipped “We’re exchanging analogue dollars for digital dimes.” But surely it’s better to make some money rather than no money, right? [TorrentFreak via TechCrunch]
Okay, listen up people. We all know The Simpsons can’t go on forever. Yes, it’s been on the air for a fifth of a century. Yes, we’re almost at the point where The Bad Episodes constitute two-thirds of the series. But it has to end at some point. Now, the smart money is on the show wrapping things up when Year 25 rolls around. But Fox can’t just cut and run; the network needs an exit strategy to take care of the gaping hole in its formidable Animation Domination programming block The Simpsons would leave behind. Luckily, the executives have thought ahead and ordered a whole bunch of animated series – some of which is already airing, some of which will probably get cancelled after a couple episodes, and some that probably already died in utero. Just for funsies, let’s pretend it’s a big Sport Game with brackets and stuff, which I have helpfully diagrammed below:
As you can see, these cartoon sitcoms are locked into a NO HOLDS BARRED BATTLE TO THE DEATH. Only one show can take over the coverted 8pm Sundays timeslot sweetspot The Simpsons currently occupies. Or, actually, maybe one can take it over for a little bit, then be replaced in mid-season by another one. Who knows. Let’s take a closer look at the competitors…
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The inexplicably beloved Hanna-Barbera franchise The Flintstones, which holds the dubious distinction of being the first cartoon sitcom, is being reinvented for today’s audiences by Seth MacFarlane, the auteur behind 90% of today’s cartoon sitcoms, including Family Guy and Family Guy Spinoff. Remaking a boring Honeymooners rip-off from half a century ago that nobody actually likes, except maybe nostalgia-blinded baby boomers? Check. Another goddamned Seth MacFarlane show greenlit by Fox, despite their ridiculous insistence that their strategy is not “all Seth, all the time?” Check. This is the state of television in 2011. [Deadline.com]
Lately, Fox has been taking a huge gamble by ordering a bunch of cartoons that weren’t made by Seth MacFarlane – including a Napoleon Dynamite show, a Jonah Hill show, and a Jack Black show – and then chucking them into the lions’ den to see who makes it out alive, in the hopes that one day they might have a show with decent-enough ratings to ensure the survival of Animation Domination in a post-Simpsons, post-Family Guy future.
Surprising everybody, the enjoyable Bob’s Burgers has managed to make it out alive with all the lioncrystals, and has been handsomely rewarded with a second season, thus ensuring Bob will live to burg another day. This means people on the internet can now transition from “TOO BAD FOX WILL CANCEL IT JUST LIKE FIREFLY & FREAKYLINKS “ to accusations of shark-jumping.
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