'The Simpsons' cast and producers in pay cut negotiation battle
Earlier in the week, Fox announced that "The Simpsons" cannot continue past the current 23rd season without cutting costs.
The producers and voice actors are currently in negotiations for a new deal that would allow the longest running prime-time comedy in television history to continue and a few agreements have been made.
"23 seasons in, 'The Simpsons' is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world," Fox said in a statement. "We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model."
The statement continued, "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 Network, which is owned by News Corp., asked the voice actors to take a 45-percent pay cut to renew their contracts, reports Variety.
According to the industry magazine, several creative executives agreed to take pay cuts in order to continue the series. Executive producers for "The Simpsons" include Al Jean, John Frink, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Matt Selman and Sam Simon.
Meanwhile, the cast of actors offered a counter offer to take a 30-percent pay cut with a share of the profits from the show, which the studio rejected.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the voice actors, which include Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe, Chief Wiggum and Apu) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders and Kent Brockman) have been earning $400,000 an episode since contract negotiations in 2008.
A 45-percent salary cut would bring the actors salaries down from $8 million to $4 million per season. The cast was asked to make a decision by Friday, since the production schedule would require a script for the series finale to be completed as early as December.
Shearer, who voices several characters including Mr. Burns, spoke out regarding the negotiations and said he would take a 70-percent salary cut for a small share of the eventual profits.
"I say, fine -- if pay cuts are what it will take to keep the show on the air, then cut my pay," Shearer said in a statement to TV Guide. "In fact, to make it as easy as possible for Fox to keep new episodes of 'The Simpsons' coming, I'm willing to let them cut my salary not just 45 percent but more than 70 percent -- down to half of what they said they would be willing to pay us. All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits."
"My representatives broached this idea to Fox yesterday, asking the network how low a salary number I would have to accept to make a profit participation feasible," the statement continued. "My representatives were told there was no such number. There were, the Fox people said, simply no circumstances under which the network would consider allowing me or any of the actors to share in the show's success."
The Hollywood Reporter estimated that Fox could earn an off-network syndication deal of around $750 million if the show were canceled.
The show is the longest running animated series and will air its 500th episode in February 2012. News Corp, which is the parent company of the Fox Broadcasting Company, which airs "The Simpsons," recently addressed rumors that there are plans to create a 24-hour "Simpsons" channel.
"This is a unique franchise ... and it provides us a unique opportunity to do some interesting things with it," the company's Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, told reporters last week, according to Forbes. "The Simpsons" has been on the air for 23 seasons, yielding a library of programming few series could ever amass."
"I wouldn't say we're drawing up plans to have a 'Simpsons' channel, but, you know, there are a lot of 'Simpsons' fans out there," he added.
On Thursday it was announced that Azaria, who voices bar-keeper Moe on the animated series, also suffered the cancellation of his new NBC series, "Free Agents," after four episodes.
The 23rd season of "The Simpsons" premiered on Sunday, September 25, at 8 p.m. on Fox.