In a move that would have C. Montgomery Burns saying "excellent," the cable network FXX has acquired rerun rights to more than 500 episodes of the long-running
Although reruns of "The Simpsons" have been on local television stations for two decades, contractual restrictions prohibited
However, the studio was able to negotiate new deals with the stations that had rerun rights that removed the exclusivity portion, clearing the way for a cable sale. As part of the agreement
Both 20th Century Fox Television and FX Networks are units of
While terms of the sale were not disclosed, FX Networks and 20 Century Fox Television said there was a "vigorous bidding war" and that this rerun sale is believed to be the biggest ever.
When 20th Century Fox Television was first floating the idea of a cable sale, there was speculation that the per-episode price could be around $1.5 million for a total sale price that would climb to close to $800 million.
That figure was dismissed as far too high by others familiar with the pact who were bound by confidentiality agreements from discussing details. Given the sheer number of episodes FXX purchased, even if the price tag were $750,000 per episode, that would translate to roughly $400 million. "The Simpsons" will be available to FXX in August 2014.
For FXX, which launched in September, having reruns of "The Simpsons" could give it a big boost. Created as a companion channel to FX, it has yet to establish itself with viewers and its ratings are very small.
Other media companies that looked at "The Simpsons," according to people close to the matter, include
Some of those rival bidders assumed all along that "The Simpsons" deal would end up staying within 21st Century Fox. Still, it was important that 20th Century Fox Television shop the show because otherwise it could be vulnerable to accusations from producers and profit participants that it cut a sweetheart deal with a sister company.
"The Simpsons," which is in its 25th season on Fox, is already a huge cash cow for 21st Century Fox. The value of the rerun sales to local TV stations has long surpassed $1 billion, as have DVD sales of the show and "The Simpsons" movie.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.