`Simpsons' cast strikes new deal
As Montgomery Burns would say, "excellent."
Fans of "The Simpsons" can rejoice that a deal has been reached between the actors who provide voices for the animated hit show and 20th Century Fox Television, the studio that produces the show for its sister Fox network.
The new agreement ends several days of tension between the two sides and ensures that "The Simpsons" will run for at least 25 seasons. The studio said it needed to cut the salaries of the actors to make keeping production going economically viable while the actors countered that the studio, network and parent company News Corp. were being greedy.
While terms of the two-year contract were not disclosed, 20th Century Fox Television had been looking to cut the salares of the actors by as much as 45%. The primary cast members currently make $440,000 per episode and the offer to keep doing the show was for about $250,000, according to people close to the situation not authorized to talk publicly about the matter.
The cast -- which includes Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe the bartender, Chief Wiggum and Apu) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders) -- had indicated it would be willing to accept a big pay cut in return for a piece of the money the company gets from reruns and other ancillary revenue streams. In a statement released Friday prior to the new deal being agreed upon, Shearer said the cast's salaries "pale in comparison to what the show's profit participants have been taking home." The offer to take smaller salaries in return for a piece of what is known as the back-end was resisted by the studio.
"The Simpsons" has been a staple of Fox's prime-time line up for more than two decades, and sales of reruns and DVDs as well as numerous licensing deals have made the program one of the most profitable in television history. News Corp. has pocketed more than $1 billion in profit from the show, according to analysts and company insiders.
However, the Fox network, which pays more than $5 million for each episode of "The Simpsons," is losing money on the new episodes it airs, said two people with knowledge of the situation. Ratings for "The Simpsons" have fallen in the last few years while the cost to make the show has increased.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: "The Simpsons." Credit: Fox.