‘The Simpsons’ Faces an Uncertain Future Despite Likely Two-Season Renewal

The Simpsons has been on the air for 30 years, and they’ve given us nearly 20 years of great television. And Variety reports that they’re showing no signs of stopping, with a two-year pick-up for seasons 31 and 32 likely from Fox.

Sources with knowledge of negotiations tell Variety that FBC and studio 20th Century Fox Television are near completion of a deal to renew “The Simpsons” for a 31st and 32nd season. The terms of the agreement, which includes a licensing fee that’s slightly reduced from what the network paid under the last renewal, reflect the reality of the shifting economics around the show.

The problem for the show is that while The Simpsons makes an insane amount of money for Fox, that money doesn’t really come from advertising for new episodes. At least, it doesn’t make as much as Fox pays to produce the show. That’s fine because it all evens out, but once the Disney/Fox merger finishes, Disney will own the series and Fox Broadcasting won’t be getting all that other money the show brings in.

This means that the show that seemed like it was going to go on forever, already the longest-running scripted prime-time television show in US history, might come to end, or at the very least leave Fox’s Sunday night line-up. Disney stands to make a huge amount of money from The Simpsons once it leaves Fox and its current syndication deals end.

“It’ll set a record because it will be such a huge library,” media consultant Brad Adgate says.

Disney has a multitude of options. One source tells Variety that Fox has long mulled breaking the show’s episodes — more than 700 by the end of Season 32 — into three batches that would rotate among multiple licensees. Such a strategy could attract more money on a per-episode basis than could be drawn from a single deal partner. Disney also could opt to forgo an outside deal and instead use “The Simpsons” as a platform on which to build out Disney Plus or Hulu in much the same way that FX used it to establish then-nascent offshoot FXX.

But there’s speculation that Fox will keep the show for as long as it can, even if it is losing them money. They’ve built their entire brand around it, and having it on Sundays has given them a platform to launch other hit animated shows like Family Guy, Futurama, King of the Hill and Bob’s Burgers. Because some of us still tune every week even though we know we’re going to be disappointed. I mean, the show is still okay, but there hasn’t actually been a memorable episode in the last five years or so.

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