The Simpsons is a television institution that has been on the air for a very long time. Specifically, since 1989. This December it will have been on for 34 years. Have you ever wondered how old The Simpsons would be if it started in 1923? Read on to find out.
Remember when you watched The Simpsons in syndication and you could just enjoy a random episode, without the burden of having to consciously pick one? What if instead of being limited to one episode per evening (or perhaps two or even three depending on your TV market), the show was constantly airing 24/7? Well, that could become a reality sooner rather than later if streaming analysts’ predictions hold true.
Now that the streaming business model has imploded, the studios have realized that the linear TV model it disrupted wasn’t so bad after all and are eager to recoup their lost revenue by getting into FAST (free, ad-supported television) channels, which are essentially fake TV channels with commercials you can stream, many of which are dedicated to one show. Some even have their own services featuring these channels: Paramount has Pluto TV and Paramount+, Fox Corporation has Tubi, NBC Universal has Peacock, and Amazon has Freevee. Warner Bros. Discovery is launching their own service later this year. Even Netflix has hinted at getting in the game.
Disney has had an ABC News Live channel for years, and in May they added a few FAST channels on the ABC app, but so far they haven’t made any major waves in that space. Streaming analysts have mused on the viability of Disney embracing the FAST market and posit that a Simpsons channel would be a no-brainer.
The real question around Disney’s decision to launch an ad-supported Disney Plus offering isn’t whether it’s a good move. Rather, it’s when are they going to take the next step and launch a free ad-supported streaming TV service (FAST) that can compete with Paramount’s Pluto TV, NBCU’s Peacock and Fox’s Tubi?
Of course, the other possibility here is that rather than go for a quick buck now and sell to outside ad-supported platforms, Disney could just launch its own FAST service, as Warner Bros. Discovery is exploring. I don’t think it would make much sense to put anything too obviously Disney on such a platform as it might cheapen the brand. But a service which leaned heavily on the 20th titles, as well as content from ABC (including ABC News), could be a winner.
The first 10 seasons are widely regarded to be the show’s best and would make perfect fodder for a dedicated single-series FAST channel. Disney+ could keep newer seasons behind a paywall, and still have plenty of content for such a channel.
What’s interesting about The Simpsons in particular is that they already were on FAST-like channels, as FX president John Landgraf mentioned in an interview:
When we bought The Simpsons, we built an app called Simpsons World that had every episode ever made in a perfectly searchable system. Then it had so-called channels, which were linear streams of Simpsons episodes. Eighty percent of the consumption was from the linear playlists, and 20 percent was on demand.
The Simpsons is already the most popular show on Disney+. Imagine what those viewership numbers would be if they added a channel that allowed you to drop in and just watch a random episode, freeing you from the tyranny of choice.
Content consumers were aghast last month when Warner Bros. Discovery suddenly removed many beloved animated series from its streaming service HBO Max and cancelled the nearly completed $90 million film Batgirl, locking them away in the studio’s iconic water tower like a certain trio of animated maniacs. Many were quick to point the proverbial finger at CEO David Zaslav, who is as focused on cutting costs as the Batman villain Zsasz is on slashing throats. Worryingly, it seems not even The Simpsons is safe from his tyrannical purge.
Suddenly, with only weeks of warning, 18 Simpsons episodes were removed from Hulu over the weekend – vanished into the ether, perhaps never to be seen again. These episodes comprised the bulk of the show’s thirty-third season, including the Emmy-nominated “Pixelated and Afraid.” It remains unclear just how Zaslav masterminded this feat, particularly as the show is produced by a rival studio and WarnerMedia sold off its stake in Hulu in 2019. What is clear is that derailing Infinity Train and closing up shop on Close Enough weren’t enough to satisfy Zaslav. Following in the footsteps of Judge Doom, he will not rest until every toon is eradicated. The creative community should be on high alert now that his reach is no longer confined to his own entertainment conglomerate.
18 episodes may not seem like much, and some of those episodes definitely sucked, but people spent a lot of time and effort making them and they deserve to have the fruits of their labor available for people to watch. Anyone seeking a legal means of viewing those 18 eradicated Simpsons episodes will simply have no choice but to purchase them from digital marketplaces, or wait until October 5, when the entire season is added to Disney+ as per licensing agreements.