The Simpsons Vet on Contract Standoff: Fox Says There Is No Way the Cast Can Share in Profits

Speaking out publicly on the stalemate in contract talks between Fox and the voice cast of The Simpsons, Harry Shearer says he has offered to take a more than 70 percent pay cut in trade for “small share of profits” — yet Fox reportedly maintains there are “no circumstances” under which the actors can reap monetary gain commensurate with the show’s success.

Fox, claiming earlier this week that “we cannot produce future seasons [of The Simpsons] under its current financial model,” has asked the cast to take a 45 percent cut in salary. Shearer (whose litany of voices for the long-running series include Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner) in turn offered to accept half of that slashed pay in exchange for a slice of the “billions of dollars in profits the show has earned” — only to have his agents summarily rebuffed.

Shearer’s full statement on the matter is here:

For many years now, the cast of The Simpsons has been trying to get Fox to agree that, like so many other people who’ve contributed significantly to the show’s success, we be allowed a tiny share of the billions of dollars in profits the show has earned. Fox has consistently refused to even consider the matter. Instead, it’s paid us salaries that, while ridiculous by any normal standard, pale in comparison to what the show’s profit participants have been taking home.

Now, as the show enters its 23rd season, we are engaged in what will probably be our last contract negotiation with Fox. As you may have heard, the network has taken the position that The Simpsons no longer makes enough money and that unless we in the cast accept a 45% pay cut, they are not going to bring the show back for a 24th season.

Obviously, there are a lot more important things going on in the world right now, in the streets of New York and elsewhere. But given how many people seem to care about what happens to our show – and how much misinformation has been flying around – I thought it might make sense for at least one member of the cast to speak out directly. I should note that I am speaking only for myself, and not for any of the other actors on the show.

Fox wants to cut our salaries in half because it says it can’t afford to continue making the show under what it calls the existing business model. Fox hasn’t explained what kind of new business model it has formulated to keep the show on the air, but clearly the less money they have to pay us in salary, the more they’re able to afford to continue broadcasting the show. And to this I say, fine – if pay cuts are what it will take to keep the show on the air, then cut my pay. 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% but more than 70% – 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. 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.

As a member of the Simpsons cast for 23 years, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve had a great run and no one should feel sorry for any of us. But given how much joy the show has given so many people over the years – and given how many billions of dollars in profits News Corp. has earned and will earn from it – I find it hard to believe that this is Fox’s final word on the subject. At least I certainly hope it isn’t, because the alternative is to cancel the show or fire me for having the gall to try to save the show by helping Fox with its new business model. Neither would be a fair result – either to those of us who have committed so many years to the show or to its loyal fans who make our effort worthwhile.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. t.t says:

    fox sucks.

  2. Mel. says:

    There’s a typo in the first paragraph –> “maintians” should be “maintains”.

  3. TV Gord says:

    I want to say Team Shearer, but I’m really Team Simpsons. I just think Harry is making perfect sense. I hope they can work it out, but as a lifelong fan of The Simpsons, I can’t complain with the abundance of brilliance they’ve brought to me over the decades. I hate to see it end in acrimony, but everything DOES come to an end, so if Fox isn’t willing to budge, well, so be it. I think they’re being short-sighted, but so be it.

  4. Jerry says:

    Have to be with Harry Shearer on this one. They deserve part of the back-end profits, probably much more than the studio does. The fact that Fox says there is NO number for the up-front salaries that will let them get in on the back-end is pretty terrible.

    Also, I hate to say it but I won’t really miss The Simpsons if it goes off the air this year. This past Sunday’s episode was pretty terrible, and more and more are like that lately.

    • jenna says:

      completely agree. I’ve stopped watching the new simpsons episodes live a couple seasons ago just because the writing seemed to be getting worse and worse with less of an emphasis being on the actual storyline and more on just random clips pushed together. However I am truly a lifelong simpsons fan and have literally grown up with the show, I 100% support Sherear and the rest of the voice actors however I will still be heartbroken if a compromise cannot be met

  5. John Berggren says:

    Fox would do well to do whatever is necessary to air 2 additional seasons and cap The Simpsons at 25 years. As close as they are, it would be foolhardy not to hit that milestone.

  6. Snsetblaze says:

    The way it is going now – both sides will lose and so will the viewers.

  7. Bob says:

    Fox (News Corp., really) doesn’t care about the actors, doesn’t care about what’s right or fair. They only care about maximizing profits. From their point of view, they have 23 years worth of Simpson’s episodes that can run in syndication until they catch up with Futurama’s timeline. That’s all gravy to them. How many movie stars does 20th Century Fox, et. al., pay peanuts to in salary for a percentage of the movie’s gross? Why not the same for animation actors? What, Fox, are they only half-actors because we only hear their voices? What, are you going to pull “an Entourage” and replace them with other voice actors? Pathetic losers.

  8. redvector says:

    Getting back end profits for voice acting is being greedy it’ll never happen.

    • Lisa says:

      Greedy? Huh? That’s complete BS. Paying actors a profit percentage is a much sounder business model than getting paid a salary. It makes sense on every level.

      • Mark says:

        How, in any way, does paying massive back-end profits to a voice cast that gets paid as well as any real actor in television for a portion of the work make sense for FOX?

        For two more seasons of a fading demo? They can go off the air and probably make just as much in syndication and merchandising without ever producing another episode.

        These things are negotiations, and the cast has no real position to argue from. That’s why Harry Shearer is forced to take this public and win some banal public sympathy.

  9. Ben Kabak says:

    why put the bogus “protest” near wall street in there?

  10. LauraHolt says:

    I am not surprised by what Harry Shearer is saying. It seems nothing changes with Fox.

    In 1997 I totally ditched out on school to drive to San Frisco to audition to replace a member of the cast. The People at Fox are so disrespectful of the hard work & talent of the Simpsons cast that in the midst of contract negotiations, they actually had a rep at a Radio call in show to solicit replacements.

    I was up in the Speech & Debate Squad room at my college and a friend hands me their cell and I do my Krusty, Marge, Bart & Lisa impressions. I get the okay to drive down for a proper audition.

    Apparently this was all a attic on Fox’s part to show them that there were hundred of people that could take their place. While excited to take my voice-over skills to the next level, I remember thinking that this was incredibly discounting and disrespectful of the Simpsons cast. Obviously, you know they worked out an agreement and no one was recast.