In an attempt to stave off Fox’s threat to cancel The Simpsons after 23 years, several of the series’ top-level producers have agreed to reduce their salary. But is it enough to keep the long-running animated program on the air?
An ultimatum from 20th Century Fox TV was made on Monday: unless the voice actors agreed to a 45% pay cut, The Simpsons will be canceled. Fox cited the fact that The Simpsons is no longer a sustainable series in its current form for taking such a hardline approach in its negotiations.
The voice actors, who are unfortunately used to difficult negations with the studio, quickly declined the substantial pay cut and countered with an proposal that they felt was reasonable: a 30% reduction in their salary, plus a piece of the back end profits from the series. The studio rejected this offer.
Despite both sides currently unable to agree to an appropriate resolution, everyone involved believes that a deal will be made and The Simpsons will be saved. Although, this conundrum does have one questioning why the Fox TV is against providing back end profits to the voice actors that helped the series become the hit that it is.
In the world of television, it’s not uncommon for the stars of long-running programs to receive back end profits – especially when the production budget doesn’t allow for an appropriate pay raise upfront. In the most common form, this is what happens when an actor receives an executive producer credit.
Instead of having to pay substantially more money upfront to the actor in the form of a direct raise, a small pay increase to their weekly salary is combined with a producer’s share of the profits from syndication, DVD sales, merchandising, etc… Producers receive a much larger portion of these profits than the actors do from union-mandated earnings.
So, in a sense, studios are more willing to share a portion of the earned profits than to increase their monetary commitment upfront. And, for The Simpsons, they have more than enough earned profits to go around.
Since its start in 1989, the profits for The Simpsons have surpassed a billion dollars. Co-creator Sam Simon has previously revealed that, even though he stopped working on the series after season 2 (and hasn’t watched the show since), the amount of money he receives from having a piece of the back end of The Simpsons is so substantial that he had to hire a separate accountant to specifically keep track of the money owed to him from Fox.
And, for a series that’s been on the air for 23 years, there may be a lot of people sharing in on the profits – so why not the actors? If Ray Romano was able to give his cast members a portion of the back end of Everybody Loves Raymond, why can’t Fox do the same for the actors of The Simpsons?
The Simpsons airs Sunday @8pm on Fox
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Source: Entertainment Weekly