The longest-running scripted show in television history will have a cable home on one of the medium’s newest networks come next summer: FXX.
The young-adult-aimed spinoff of FX outbid a number of suitors to emerge as the exclusive cable home of animated classic The Simpsons, which is currently in production on its record 25th season on Fox. Financial terms were not disclosed, but given the number of episodes -- 530 at launch in August 2014 and 552 a month later -- the deal is being billed as the largest off-network deal in TV history.
Rather than air The Simpsons on the more established and higher-rated FX, the pact, which sources peg as approaching $1 billion, with Twentieth Century Fox Television, the syndication arm of Simpsons producer 20th Century Fox Television, could prove to be a transformative one for FXX. The network, which launched out of Fox Soccer Channel on Sept. 2, currently counts some 72 million homes and could use The Simpsons’ addition as a fulcrum to secure a higher profile, bolster its sub base and increase its monthly license fee. The acquisition may also spur FXX repositioning from its current location amid sports networks, where Fox Soccer Channel resided.
Starting in August 2014, FXX gains exclusive cable rights to The Simpsons, which has been airing in broadcast syndication since 1993, as well as expression on video-on-demand and non-linear platforms. The latter will manifest on FXNOW, the mobile viewing app for FX Networks authenticated subscribers that is expected to launch in December.
Over the years, the show was contractually forbade from airing cable as long as new episodes were being made for broadcast. That changed earlier this year and cable programmers bid over the last month.
Under the deal, FXX will gain the rights to 530 episodes through the series’ first 24 seasons, starting next August. The deal also gives FXX the rights to future seasons, as the network will gain access to The Simpsons’ current silver anniversary season in September, after installments on its upcoming 26th campaign bow on Fox.
FXX has the rights to run the expansive Simpsons catalogue in all dayparts, and is considering stacking the series in primetime several nights per week.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said it was likely that Turner, with interest for its TBS, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim services; Viacom, for possible placement on Comedy Central, Spike TV, Nick at Nite, TV Land and even MTV; Tribune Co. for WGN America; and NBCUniversal for USA Network and Esquire Network; were all in the hunt for the cable rights to The Simpsons.
Chuck Saftler, president, program strategy, and COO, FX Networks, negotiated the deal for FXX and FX Networks, along with Chris Antola, senior vice president of strategic programming, FX Networks.
“The Simpsons is indisputably one of the greatest shows in television history,” said John Landgraf, CEO, FX Networks and FX Productions, in announcing the deal. “We are honored to have it associated with FX Networks and FXX. This was a very long, hard and complicated negotiation and I credit the relentlessness and diligence of Chuck Saftler for getting it done. I also want to thank Gary Newman and Dana Walden at TCFTV, and Greg Meidel and Steve MacDonald at Twentieth Television. Most important of all, I want to thank Jim Brooks, Matt Groening and Al Jean and everyone at Gracie Films for this new partnership.”
FXX, which debuted on Labor Day in almost 20 million more homes than Fox Soccer Channel, features original series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, Legit and Wilfred, all of which previously aired on FX. The service, which also presents a host of off-network fare, including How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development and Bob’s Burgers, will add Ali G: Rezurection to its lineup in February. The service, which also proffers theatricals from a strong film library, canceled late-night strip talker, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, earlier this week.