If any current TV show had a true shot of lasting until the next stage of human evolution deemed entertainment unnecessary, it would be The Simpsons. However, Disney's impending Fox takeover may play a bigger role in The Simpsons' future than was originally hinted at, and not exactly in a great way for fans who can't get enough new episodes. And all because the animated hit would technically be worth more to Disney as a finished series.
To kick things off with a note of positivity, it's being reported by Variety that 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC) are currently working on negotiations to renew The Simpsons for Seasons 31 and 32. Allegedly, the licensing fee this time around would be slightly lower than what Fox shelled out for the last two-season renewal order. That dip is a sign of the times, and we could very well be bidding the show farewell once the potential Season 32 concludes.
Currently, FBC regularly takes a financial loss whenever it ponies up the millions and millions of dollars that it takes to secure The Simpsons for each season of 20+ episodes. What's more, the show's decades-old broadcasting deals are far more reflective of the medium's bygone era than they are of a world where Netflix has inspired networks and studios en masse to invest heavily into streaming options.
The financial elements isn't as damning an issue for FBC, considering The Simpsons' widespread merchandising efforts more than compensate for any episode-to-episode losses. Not to mention a gigantic rights contract such as FX's monster syndication deal, which was valued at roughly $750 million. helps to keep 20th Century's status quo a pretty admirable one. But once the Disney-ABC Television Group takes control of 20th Century Fox, the suddenly lonesome New Fox will have to foot the Simpsons bill without the promise of making that money back.
Plus, that FX deal came with the complicated process of getting permissions from the TV stations where the original Simpsons TV licensing deals were set up. An exception for cable and streaming was a needed addendum to the original negotiations. For what it's worth, the FX deal is set to expire in 2023, and it's now slightly harder to predict whether or not The Simpsons will still be cranking out new episodes.
Such broadcast station deals are actually locked in place for as long as The Simpsons remains on the Fox network, so there haven't been any chances for corporate execs to renegotiate. Once the comedy's ending is in the cards, though, that's when Disney will be able to revamp the paperwork so that it can fully take advantage of the show's potential to bring in many more millions of dollars from other parties interested in securing part of the extended library.
Disney's future plans may not even reflect the way The Simpsons' rights have been handled in the past. For example, Fox has reportedly long considered splitting the massive library of episodes -- currently at over 640 -- into three different segments meant to be licensed separately. That would likely allow them to land more money per deal on average, and without having to give up the entirety of The Simpsons' back catalog.
As well, discussions have also centered on Disney potentially stiff-arming all competing networks and streaming services by keeping The Simpsons entire library in-house as a major enticer for potential customers to sign up for the Disney+ streaming service. Alternately, Disney will own majority shares in Hulu once the Fox deal goes through -- and possibly more if Comcast and AT&T decide to sell off their shares -- so the company higher-ups could easily choose to give Hulu an extra leg up in the competition.
But just because fans are starting to get a little more worried about The Simpsons' future doesn't mean that everyone needs to take up a permanent position on the couch in order to grow a beard. It's believed that the show's producers and co-creators would likely need to be in shared agreement about ending the influential Fox mainstay, as opposed to Disney directly influencing the show's cancellation or final planned season.
For now, The Simpsons is currently safe on Fox's Sunday night schedule, and if reported plans go through, we'll get at least two more seasons before the next round of negotiations has to start up in earnest. By that time, Disney+ might be zapping Marvel heroes' series straight into our brains via lasers, so anything could be possible.