October 8, 2011 / 12:37 AM / in 6 years

Fox renews "The Simpsons" for two more seasons

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fox said on Friday it had renewed animated TV series “The Simpsons” for another two seasons, after apparently reaching a pay deal with voice actors.

<p>Actor and comedian Harry Shearer, nominated for Best Comedy Album, arrives at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 10, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>

“Fox has renewed ‘The Simpsons,’ the longest-running comedy in television history, for an incredible 24th and 25th season,” the network said in a statement.

Fox Television, a unit of News Corp, had said earlier this week that it could no longer afford to keep producing the show without a pay cut of 45 percent for the main voice actors.

The actors had offered to take a 30 percent pay cut in their $8 million annual salaries in return for a share of billions of dollars generated by the show in worldwide licensing, syndication and merchandising.

The dispute had threatened to end the satirical parody of working-class American life, which is currently in its 23rd season.

The Fox statement did not say how the dispute had been resolved.

Actor Harry Shearer, who voices evil entrepreneur Mr. Burns and God-fearing neighbor Ned Flanders, had earlier offered to take a 70 percent pay cut in exchange for a share of the profits, but said that Fox had turned the offer down.

The tale of doughnut-loving Homer Simpson and his dysfunctional, yellow-faced family was launched on Fox in 1989, and helped establish the fledgling network as a major player in the TV industry.

It is now broadcast in more than 100 countries and 50 languages. But U.S. audiences have dropped off steadily in recent years. The show is currently watched by about 7.1 million Americans, down from an average 12.4 million 10 years ago, according to ratings data.

It has won 27 Emmy Awards and boasted a guest star list that is a Who’s Who of pop culture, ranging from actress Elizabeth Taylor to astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, rock star Mick Jagger, and even News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch.

The family from the fictional city of Springfield has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and Homer’s catch-phrase “D‘oh” entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001.

But Andrew Wallenstein, television editor for Hollywood trade paper Variety, said the comedy was no longer as fresh and exciting as it once was.

“I don’t think it has anywhere near the influence that it used to,” Wallenstein told Reuters.

“The very fact that the show has been around for so long sort of works against it to some degree. After 23 years, you’re bound to fade into the woodwork, no matter how hilarious or clever you are,” said Wallenstein.

News Corp executives have said recently they are looking at ways of making more money from the show in future from syndication rights and other ventures.

“Whether it’s channel, digital, ourselves, third parties, it’s a series unique in television, with a volume to it that is unprecedented,” News Corp Chief Operating Officer Case Carey told an investors conference in September.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Walsh

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