The news has been out for roughly a day now, but in case you didn’t hear it, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory have more than tripled their salaries to one million dollars per episode. The trio’s previous deals saw them collect $300,000 per episode.
Mind you that isn’t what they make per season, but per thirty minute episode. Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco’s total income per season is now somewhere near the 20 million dollar range. While these salaries are eye-popping are they anomalies? Let’s look at how their pay stacks up to past TV deals.
Believe it or not, well-documented historical precedent for seven figure TV deals exists. And NBC’s ever-popular sitcom Friends may have started the precedent. The six big stars of Friends — David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, and Matt LeBlanc — raked in about $100,000 per episode plus an unspecified syndication royalty thanks to a 1996 deal. Escalating money demands called for a seven figure per episode deal which would, by any definition of the word, dwarf what Schwimmer and Co. made previously. The holdout ended in 2002 when the stars agreed to a $22 million deal with network brass.
These salary demands may strike some as greedy, but they are far from being an anomaly. Other big time shows like HBO’s The Sopranos would go on to match widespread critical acclaim with a plethora of green for leading man James Gandolfini. And the money made by these actors is well deserved.
Along with fellow HBO show The Wire, the exploits of Tony Soprano and his New Jersey mob are considered by many to be two of the greatest shows in history. The Writers Guild of America even named The Sopranos the best written drama ever on its 101 Best Written TV Series list. The Wire came in at ninth place, and the phenomenon known as AMC’s Breaking Bad in thirteenth place, respectively.
With juicy, must-watch programming like The Sopranos, Dexter, Californication and Game of Thrones on HBO and Showtime, weekly viewing is a necessity for many people worldwide. Thus, the $15 to $20 a month subscription price to access these channels won’t deter many people from ponying up the cash. That money ensures that future HBO and Showtime shows will allow future cast members to keep making a helluva lot of money.
However, TV shows are largely free to watch courtesy of the Big Three television networks (NBC, ABC and CBS) and Fox. With no subscription required, having a single person, let alone three or more earn a salary in the realm of $1 million seems ludicrous… until you look at what advertisers pay to run their ads in between these programs. According to the Houston Chronicle, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent filing up the commercial breaks. With dozens of commercials per shows, that makes the $1 million earned by the three Big Bang Theory stars a lot easier to swallow.
In this crazy world of income inequality and the war between the one percent and the 99 percent. one thing is for certain: actor salaries are truly out of this world.
[Photo courtesy of MovieWeb]