Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

In one of the biggest television syndication deals in history, “The Simpsons” will finally be moving to cable television — and, not too surprisingly, the longest-running family show in TV history is staying in the family.

The 21st Century Fox family, that is, which owns the studio that created “The Simpsons,” (20th Century Fox Television); the network that broadcasts it (Fox) and now the cable network, FXX, that has acquired both cable and streaming rights to the more than 500 episodes.

Terms were not disclosed, but bidding for the highly coveted “Simpsons” library was reported to be intense, rising toward the $1 billion range. After the television unit announced the sale, analysts estimated a purchase price of between $1 million and $2 million an episode, putting the overall value in the range of $550 million to $1 billion-plus.

The shows will begin airing in August 2014.

These rights include not only the exclusive exposure on the FXX cable network, the new comedy offshoot of the FX Network, but also video-on-demand and streaming rights. That means, for the foreseeable future, the episodes are likely to contain some form of advertising and not find their way onto increasingly popular ad-free subscription services like those offered by Netflix or Amazon.

The sale came after what was officially described as a “vigorous bidding war.”

Other cable networks, especially the Turner networks, TBS and Adult Swim, which has carved out an identity substantially on re-runs of other Fox network animated comedies like “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” had intense interest in acquiring the enormous package of “Simpsons” episodes.

“The Simpsons” was locked into a unique — and now vintage — deal. The show was first sold into syndication in the first year of the Clinton administration, 1993.

The stations that were asked to pay hefty fees for the rerun rights were concerned about how well the show would fare on their lineups — a single animated show among what were usually repeats of live-action comedies.

So the stations insisted on maintaining exclusivity — meaning no sale to a cable network for as long as they were buying new seasons of reruns. “The Simpsons” kept making new episodes on Fox, and the syndication contracts kept going.

Until now.

For the fledgling FXX network, the deal is clearly intended to be a foundation stone. FX spun off its comedy lineup (“Louie,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) in an all-comedy network last September.