Twentieth Television is prepping to take The Simpsons into cable syndication, Twentieth confirmed Monday (July 29). That sale is expected to rake in as much as $1 billion or more in additional revenue for 21st Century Fox.
The show, which is headed into its 25th season on Fox, has been in syndication on TV stations since 1994. In the original deal, stations agreed to pay cash to air the show until it went off the network. That deal has since turned out to be a huge boon to stations, and a problem for News Corp., which has been unable to further monetize the show on cable and subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms since then.
That appears to be changing.
"With the platforms evolving and discussions ongoing with [Twentieth's] broadcast syndication partners, it has opened up the possibility of The Simpsons going to cable," said a source close to the negotiations who declined to be named.
TV stations will have to allow for changes in their original deal in order for the show to go to cable, although what those changes will be remains unclear. Previously, it was thought that The Simpsons would have to end its run on Fox in order to free it up to head to cable, but that may no longer be the case.
The Simpsons remains strong on Fox, where it is likely to be renewed past season 25. It's also doing well with ancillary products, such as its iOS game, "Tapped Out," which is one of the top-selling games on iTunes, and its themed rides at Universal Studios Orlando.
Twentieth--which just moved out from under the purview of Roger Ailes and Jack Abernethy at the Fox Television Stations and now reports in to Gary Newman and Dana Walden at Twentieth Century Fox Television--plans to take the show to cable networks in the next few months, with a possible premiere for The Simpsons on the medium in 2014.
Networks that could bid on the show include News Corp.'s own FXX, a youth-targeted comedy network that will premiere in September, as well as Turner's TBS, Viacom's Comedy Central and NBCU's USA Network and Esquire Network. Whether or not the initial deal will include an SVOD run remains unclear, although sources say the first sales push will be on cable.
Sources also expect the entire Simpsons library of 500-plus episodes to go to one buyer, as opposed to being broken up into windows.
This story was first reported by TV Guide.