"The Simpsons" doomed by pay dispute?

Homer, Marge and the rest of "The Simpsons."
AP

After more than 20 years, the curtain could finally be coming down on "The Simpsons."

A standoff is reportedly underway between the studio and the show's actors over their multimillion dollar salaries. And if an agreement isn't reached, the show could be canceled for good, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

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The show holds the record as the longest-running sitcom in the history of broadcasting. But after 23 seasons and nearly 500 episodes, the very future of "The Simpsons" may hang in the balance over a reported pay dispute between Twentieth Century Fox and the actors that provide the voices of the show's beloved characters.

"Basically, the studio would like to see the voice actors take a pretty huge pay cut in order to justify the increasingly skyrocketing expense of doing a show that's been on the air for 23 years," Andrew Wallenstein, TV editor for Variety magazine, tells CBS News.

Studio executives are reportedly insisting that each of the six principal actors accept a 45 percent pay cut, from $8 million a year to a little more than $4 million. The actors refused. Earlier, the actors had offered to take a 30 percent cut in pay in exchange for a share in the show's huge back-end profits. Fox executives refused.

"What's standing behind the actors in terms of leverage is the fact that it is their distinctive voices that have really breathed life into these characters," notes Wallenstein.

"We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model," Twentieth Century Fox said in a statement.

"The Simpsons" is no longer the show it used to be. Ratings are down 14 percent from last year, leading some observers to believe that Fox may be looking for a way to turn the lights out on Springfield for good.