A world without Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie? Or at least one without the 24th season of "The Simpsons?" That prospect suddenly presented itself Tuesday after 20th Century Fox confirmed an online report that said the company has threatened to pull the plug on the world's most successful TV franchise over a cast salary dispute.

In a statement Tuesday, Fox said, "We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model," adding, "We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows 'The Simpsons' to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come."

A report in the Daily Beast said Fox had demanded a 45-percent salary reduction for each of the six key cast members -- Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer, who each reportedly earn about $400,000 per episode -- or it would cease production by next spring. According to the report, cast members are willing to accept a lesser reduction in exchange for a percentage of the show residuals.

How much is negotiation talk on Fox's part and how much is real? Consider: Why would Fox kill the show that virtually made the network a season shy of its 25th landmark season? Moreover, cast changes would also seem an option. Even though that would be sacrilegious to American fans, voices of other actors are dubbed for editions in 60-plus other countries.

Also consider: "Simpsons" products are licensed through 400 licensees worldwide, with total sales of $8 billion last year, according to recent industry statistics. A portion of those revenues might also be at risk were the show to cease production.

So, let the negotiations continue.


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