So… remember how FX – Fox’s barely-watched teen/college-age basic cable channel – spun off a sibling network called FXX earlier this year? If so, remember wondering what sense that made, given how FX doesn’t really even have enough content for one channel as it is? Well, now we have our answer: THE SIMPSONS needed a cable home.
And just like that, the basic cable landscape just got shook the fuck up.
Okay, briefly: A few months back, the magic-number of years and money passed for 20th Century Fox to put THE SIMPSONS up for cable syndication deals. This previously wasn’t possible, because the syndication deals for the series were struck long enough ago that it was still not uncommon for network syndication contracts to include agreements that kept the series off of cable competitors. Hence why you haven’t seen, say, TBS, TNT or USA using this show to fill rerun-blocs like they do with LAW & ORDER, HOUSE, FAMILY GUY, NCIS, etc.
But now that’s over, and FXX has won the very competitive bidding war and can now run all 530 episodes from THE SIMPSON’s first 24 season (subsequent seasons will become available as they conclude on Fox) whenever and however they wish on the channel. Even if you’re in the “it hasn’t been good since Season 10!” camp, even just that would a crop of well over 200 episodes to work with. And they have precisely zero incentive to not run this massive backlog of content from one of the most recognized and popular multimedia properties of all time as often as they possibly can.
The “dirty” secret of minor cable nets like FX/FXX (or USA, TNT, TBS, etc) is that they pull serious ad revenue by booking blocs of familiar “comfort food” TV reruns (either one show or similar shows, see: USA’s daily LAW & ORDER: SVU marathons) largely on the calculation that people who keep their sets on all the time just for background chatter will just leave that channel running as they go about their home-stuff. THE SIMPSONS – whatever you may think of it now or previously – could not be more perfect for this: It’s colorful, it’s immediately recognizable, it’s family-friendly and thus can be on at any time of day, etc. Hell, add in the obvious 90s Nostalgia factor and it’s also the most ideal possible fit for the college/stoner/work-from-home “overnight programming” time-slots… which is why if you’ve got money tied up in Comedy Central or Adult_Swim, you are not about to have a happy morning.
The “special” programming possibilities are staggering, from ratings/ad-rev perspective. Consider: On Halloween, FXX could run all 23 “Treehouse Of Horrors” specials as a day-long marathon – I could see people building Halloween parties around that. Every Sideshow Bob story? Do-able. Smithers-centric marathon on Secretaries Day? A Moe Marathon? Holiday episodes? Hell, you don’t think legions of devoted SIMPSONS fans wouldn’t make lucrative “live tweet this” events out of, say, Bumblebee Man Night? Any half-decent programmer should be salivating at how easy this would make their jobs.
The deal also gives FX’s On-Demand arm, FXNow, exclusive streaming rights to every episode – which, yes, likely means you’ll be able to watch any of the 530 whenever you want on TV, mobile, PC, whatever.
My only immediate question is what (if anything) they plan to do about the significantly large number of episodes that were produced pre-HD. That handily includes all of the “Classic Seasons” and a good deal of the Silver Age, and its apparently why some network syndicators have dialed back on re-airing those because they worry people will be turned-off by non-HD visuals. Will they do an optimizing-pass on the classic seasons to make them HD-ready?