Press tour: FXX unveils Simpsons World portal to drooling critics
One of FXX's promos for the channel's upcoming premiere of every "The Simpsons" repeat ever — not to mention a new website/app called Simpsons World that will allow fans to watch any episode, or clip, at any time — features a post-apocalyptic America where the world has fallen apart because people are too busy watching old "Simpsons" scenes to do anything else.
By the time FXX executives and longtime "Simpsons" showrunner Al Jean got done explaining all the features of Simpsons World, that promo seemed less parody than prophecy, at least for the "Simpsons"-loving TV critics at the press tour panel, all of whom seemed to be drooling like Homer Simpson contemplating the thought of free goo.
Just from a traditional (or linear) standpoint, FXX will have access to all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons" so far, and will marathon them all in order from August 21 through September 1, 24 hours a day for 12 days. ("The Simpsons Movie" will even air in between seasons 18 & 19, just like it was released in theaters.) From that point, FXX will have the repeats in heavy rotation, will do themed marathons — a "Treehouse of Horror" marathon on October 26, or perhaps a run of Krusty episodes on Sunday afternoon if that night's new episode on FOX features Krusty — and otherwise cycle back and forth through the whole series.
But the mind-blower of the panel was Simpsons World, which will launch in October, and which promises (and we will see if it can deliver) to be everything any "Simpsons" fan has ever dreamed of from an online portal. (Al Jean joked, "I don't want to overpromise, but I do think this website will provide you with affordable healthcare.") Among other features:
* Every episode ever, in an order that's easy to browse, but also easy to search. (The original "Simpsons" clips from "The Tracey Ullman Show" are not currently part of the package, but FX is talking to Matt Groening about it; "I know Matt has a very open mind to that," said FX COO Chuck Saftler. "The Simpsons Movie" will appear intermittently on the app, but won't be available constantly.)
* A search function that allows you to quickly find — and share across social media — your favorite "Simpsons" joke or scene. At the moment, I cannot show you the "free goo" scene, or Homer contemplating the excitement of floor pie or waffle runoff; with Simpsons World, I can do it easily. I can also find every Disco Stu scene in one shot, or any story where Marge gets a new job, etc.
* Ability to curate your own playlists of episodes and/or scenes, and a learning function that will then recommend similar ones for you to try or revisit.
* An exhaustive episode guide that can be opened up to run parallel to the episode, featuring historical references, behind-the-scenes info, quotes, etc. You can also have each episode's script scrolling along as you watch it, and you can excerpt and share parts of the script, as well.
Most of that functionality should be ready for the October launch, and even more should be introduced in January. (FX's president of marketing Stephanie Gibbons told me after the panel that the goal was to get the episodes and the ability to search for and share clips up immediately, and follow with more bonuses later.)
Now, Simpsons World will, like FX's FXNow service, require cable authentication, and for your provider to have a deal with FX, at least to watch full episodes. (People will be able to see clips — both on the site and across social media — without authentication.) At the moment, FX has deals with about 60 percent of the country's providers, including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox and Time-Warner, and Saftler sounded very confident that they will close deals with the other 40 percent in the next year or so. (Customers demanding access to Simpsons World will certainly give FX leverage in negotiations with providers.) The app will be available on iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, Apple TV, Samsung, XBox1 and XBox360 as of now.
"Basically, with this, I think there's no reason to do anything else but do this app 24 hours a day," Jean said, only half-joking.