'The Simpsons': Contract negotiations once again threaten series' future

simpsons-negotiations.jpgThe contracts for the voice cast of "The Simpsons" expire at the end of this season, which means that it's time for a round of stories like this one speculating about the future of the longest-running scripted series on TV.

There's a difference this time, though: Talks have usually remained behind closed doors in the past, but this time the studio behind the show has already fired a public shot in the negotiation battle.

The Daily Beast reports that negotiations between 20th Century Fox TV, which produces the series, and stars Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright and Harry Shearer have reached an impasse. The actors reportedly volunteered to take a 30 percent cut in salary in exchange for a small piece of the show's giant syndication and merchandising profits, but the studio rejected the offer.

Instead, 20th Century Fox has asked that the actors take a bigger pay cut. The studio also issued this statement: "23 seasons in, 'The Simpsons' is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world. We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows 'The Simpsons' to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come."

The actors have standard residual clauses in their contracts, and are among the higher-paid actors on TV, but they don't get any of the back-end profits for syndication, DVD sales, video games and other merchandise. To paraphrase Krusty the Clown, that's the sweetest plum.

"Fox is basically saying, 'If you don't take this deal, we'll shut down the show,' and they'll continue to make a ton of money," a "Simpsons" source tells The Daily Beast. "They're free to sell it to cable and a second round of syndication, and they figure that the cast has very little leverage."

"The Simpsons" will pass the 500-episode mark later this season. Its 23 seasons on the air are more than any scripted prime-time series in TV history.
Photo/Video credit: FOX
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