In An Online, On-Demand Age, TV Reruns Are Redefined FX's new digital platform, Simpsons World features all 25 years of episodes from The Simpsons. NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans says it's also among several sites that are revitalizing the TV rerun.
NPR logo

In An Online, On-Demand Age, TV Reruns Are Redefined

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/360300852/360300853" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In An Online, On-Demand Age, TV Reruns Are Redefined

In An Online, On-Demand Age, TV Reruns Are Redefined

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/360300852/360300853" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Like many people who came of age before the Internet, Homer and Marge Simpson needed time to adapt.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS)

DAN CASTELLANETA: (As Homer Simpson) Ever heard of a little thing called the Internet?

JULIE KAVNER: (As Marge Simpson) Internet, aye?

CASTELLANETA: (As Homer Simpson) Oh, yeah, everybody's making money off the Internet except us.

INSKEEP: That was then. This is now.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now the Simpsons are making money off the Internet with a new website and an app featuring every episode of "The Simpsons" ever made. You, too, can watch the episode where Homer says, operator, get me the number for 9-1-1.

INSKEEP: (Imitating Homer Simpson) The site is called Simpsons World. It's one of many sites transforming the TV rerun. Here's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: For fans of great TV comedy, it's been a call to action for more than 25 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SIMPSONS THEME SONG")

DEGGANS: Even Homer Simpson had a tough time designing a great website.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS)

CASTELLANETA: (As Homer Simpson) Here it is, everybody. The world's greatest website. You'd think all the noises would be annoying, but they're not.

DEGGANS: Fortunately, FX Networks did a bit better when they built a website and app designed to show off all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons." Simpsons World allows viewers with a cable subscription to access every episode, watch special playlists, look up the popularity of each episode and more. Next year, more features are coming, including social media sharing and the ability to create your own playlist.

Chuck Saftler is chief operating officer for FX. He says the company dreamed up Simpsons World as they were buying rights to the show for their new cable channel called FXX.

CHUCK SAFTLER: We realized that we were in a very changing time in terms of how television is consumed and in terms of how entertainment as a whole is consumed.

DEGGANS: Saftler says FX wanted to satisfy two kinds of viewers: old-fashioned TV fans watching the show on cable and people who watch shows on whatever device is available.

SAFTLER: I do believe that there are going be a number of viewers that still want to have episodes, you know, served up live and have that leaned back, decompressed experience. But I also believe that there are viewers that want to have that lean forward, you know, where they curate their own experience.

DEGGANS: But now that viewers can curate their own TV playlists online, why wouldn't most people watch exactly what they want exactly when they want to watch it? Saftler says there's a simple answer.

SAFTLER: Choice is good, but too much choice is paralyzing. And if you go there not knowing what you're looking for, it can be paralyzing. It can be too many choices. If you go there knowing exactly what you're looking for, there's no better way to find content.

DEGGANS: It's an interesting paradox. Even in today's on-demand media culture, viewers still sometimes want the option of watching what someone else has chosen for them. And "The Simpsons" isn't the only show giving viewers this kind of choice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOUTH PARK THEME SONG")

PRIMUS: (Singing) I'm going down to South Park, going to have myself a time.

DEGGANS: Earlier this year, the creators of "South Park" cut a deal with Hulu worth a reported $80 million. They sold streaming rights to all 240 plus episodes of the show for the Hulu Plus subscription site. Fans can also visit southparkstudios.com to see episodes, read a wiki and blogs and create an avatar themselves in the "South Park" animation style. Hulu also recently announced plans to add episodes of Viacom-owned series like "Ren & Stimpy" and "The Daily Show." These shows will help build an audience for Hulu that's independent from cable TV or broadcasters or even television sets. This is quite a long way from where TV reruns started.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Leave it to Beaver.

DEGGANS: Years ago, reruns of shows like "Leave It To Beaver" were almost appointment viewing on TV stations. Then cable channels began using reruns to build their identity.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME SONG, "LAW & ORDER")

DEGGANS: TNT aired "Law & Order" reruns to brand itself as a home for TV drama long before developing its original shows. Now reruns provide the same service for online platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Simpsons World. It's another interesting paradox as viewers' love for old shows and new technology come together to shape TV's future. I'm Eric Deggans.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.