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Fox Plans ‘Simpsons’ Cable Syndication Push

20th TV topper Gary Newman tells confab toon is 'greatest TV asset of all time'

The Simpsons” are finally headed to cable.

Gary Newman, chairman-CEO of 20th Century Fox TV, told an investor confab Thursday that the studio is poised to shop a mammoth package of rerun rights to the enduring toon’s nearly 600 episodes. ‘Simpsons’ has been a staple of broadcast syndication for nearly 20 years and a consistent seller on DVD, but the reruns have never aired on cable.

Newman noted that the show has so many episodes that a cabler could air one month’s worth of “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween-themed episodes in October. Or a month of Marge Simpson episodes in May for a Mother’s Day .

The volume of episodes after 25 years of production provides “the ability for a company — whether it’s Fox, Turner, Universal, Viacom ore whoever it may be — to take that kind of package and identify with one of the strongest brands that TV has ever known,” Newman said during a morning Q&A at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Entertainment and Communications confab in Beverly Hills.

” ‘The Simpsons’ is the greatest television asset of all time — certainly the greatest in a generation,” Newman said. “We figured out that a cable channel could play the series for 52 weeks without having to repeat. The series has only been on broadcast stations. It hasn’t been on Netflix, it hasn’t been on cable. It isn’t as exploited as one would think.”

Newman was generally bullish on the outlook for the studio side of the primetime programming biz. “In this new digital world there are more ways to monetize different types of programming than ever before,” he said.

Among other highlights from his sesh:

** 20th TV expects “Modern Family” to yield about $5 million per episode in its first cycle of syndication, counting the cable deal with USA Network and broadcast syndication license fees and barter ad sales. He praised co-creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd for being cost-conscious, particularly in the show’s first season, when most segs were produced for about $400,000. “They treated the (budget) money as if it were their own,” Newman said.

** SVOD revenue has grown exponentially for the studio. Four years ago, SVOD was about 5% of the revenue that Fox’s TV productions yielded from physical homevid sales. Today SVOD revenue exceed physical sales, he said.

** Newman noted that about 80% of the studio’s drama series will lense outside of California this year, citing the inescapable appeal of production tax incentives.

** The pace of drama development for 2014 has been noticeably slower this year because so many scribes are already working on shows. He called it a “temporary problem” that will open doors for a new generation of scribes. “There’s going to be a demand that they need to fill,” he said.

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