Ay Carumba! In its 23rd year on TV, "The Simpsons" could be on the endangered species list.
The show's producer said Tuesday the show can't continue under its current financial model, following a report that big pay cuts are being sought for the actors who provide voices for Homer, Marge and Bart Simpson and other characters.
"We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model," said Chris Alexander, spokesman for 20th Century Fox Television. He said producers hope a deal can be reached.
The animated series is a fixture on Fox's Sunday night schedule, and critics consider it one of the best shows in the medium. But like many programs that have been on the air for a long time, the cost of making it has become prohibitive.
The Fox network reportedly loses money each year on new episodes, even as all the old episodes run in perpetuity in reruns and are a cash cow for producers and creators.
The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that producers are demanding a 45 percent pay cut from the six voice actors, who reportedly make nearly $8 million each for a season. The website said the voice actors have offered to take a 30 percent pay in return for a portion of the show's syndication and merchandise revenue.
Allan Mayer, a spokesman for one of the show's voice actors, Harry Shearer, said he had no comment on the talks. The manager for Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, told The Associated Press she didn't know about the negotiations, and creator Matt Groening didn't immediately return a phone call.
"The Simpsons" is averaging 7.1 million viewers for its new episodes this fall, down 14 percent from last year. Back in the 1991-92 season, an average of 21.7 million people watched it every week, Nielsen said.
The median age of the show's viewers back two decades ago was 23, and this season it is still very young for a TV show — 32, Nielsen said. That's an indication of how the show has regenerated its audiences as the years go by.
"It's still a very young and male audience, which is difficult to reach on broadcast TV," said Brad Adgate, a researcher for Horizon Media. "Its longevity is due to that. They can charge a premium to reach that audience, and they do."