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The Big Bet on Bart

FX Networks' deal last November to become the exclusive off-net syndication home of The Simpsons—which B&C reported at the time could be the biggest off-network syndication pact ever at $750 million to $1 billion—will bear its first fruit Aug. 21 when FXX kicks off a 278-consecutivehour marathon of the show.

And that’s only phase one. This season, FXX will devote 12 of its 22 weekly primetime hours to Simpsons reruns. In October, the entire series will become available on overthe- top app FXNow, which will feature a light version of Simpsons World—a non-linear portal for the library that has generated significant buzz since a July press preview. Simpsons World will roll out in full in 2015.

“We’re really looking for this to be the hybrid experience of both linear and non-linear,” said Chuck Saftler, FX networks COO/ president of program strategy.

For FXX Saftler hopes that The Simpsons can increase the linear network’s reach in a way that simply investing more money into original programming would not.

“We’re looking to have a very robust lineup of original programs over the next few years, and ultimately the best way to get those shows sampled is to have usage through the day,” Saftler said. “Acquired programming doesn’t get DVR’d. So the commercial breaks are seen and the promos are seen and the advertising is seen. It’s a great vehicle to get traction for the network.”

Asked what the company’s strategy might have been for growing FXX had the Simpsons deal not come together, Saftler added, “We’d be looking for those shows that would give us the opportunity to create more sampling and usage of the network. But quite frankly, I don’t see another one of those out there right now.”

Acquiring the non-linear rights was critical for FX to justify the price paid. Saftler hopes The Simpsons can also do for FXNow what he believes it will do for FXX.

“These apps are becoming a more and more critical part of our strategies and our morphing toward our future existence,” he said. “This is a great way to get adoption of FXNow, as well as a great way to get adoption of FXX.”