The new Fall TV season is underway and everyone is talking about their new “must see” programs as well as the plot twists and turns of their perennial favorites. For those who wonder what their favorite stars make for creating these iconic roles, the annual list of top TV salaries is out.
The top earners in television are those who have part-ownership of their programs, development deals, and endorsement money. When calculating total earnings, television hosts tend to come out on top, as late night hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman bring home upwards of $20 million a year while Jon Stewart reportedly will earn between $25-$30 million. This is nothing compared to Judge Judy Sheindlin’s earnings of $47 million or Simon Cowell’s reported $95 million. It really takes a savvy accountant to figure out the final income of these moguls.
In the case of scripted television, salaries are calculated by the episode. While most network fare runs 22-24 episodes in a year, cable networks like HBO, AMC, and USA may have seasons as short as 8-10 episodes and rarely go more than 12-14. So take the salaries below and multiply them by the number of episodes aired to get an idea of the base salary of these top earners.
2013-14 Base Salaries:
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men): $750,000
Mark Harmon (NCIS): $525,000 + points
Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory): $325,000
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory): $325,000
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory): $325,000
Claire Danes (Homeland): $250,000
Michael Weatherly (NCIS): $250,000
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother): $225,000
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation): $200,000
Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones): $165,000
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones): $150,000
Max Greenfield (New Girl): $75,000
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black): $50,000
And remember, Kaley Cuoco gets paid to host various awards shows, receives residuals for not only TBBT but for other shows on which she was a regular and has multiple endorsement deals. Ashton Kutcher gets “That 70s Show” money as well as movie money and ownership of “punk’d” and investments in several top websites and digital companies. In fact, every performer on the list has a portfolio of income streams in addition to their base salary that can add millions to their annual pay.
Gabby Newfall is an entertainment accountant who writes about the money behind television and films. Her writing has appeared on numerous blogs and financial sites, covering topics from a list of the top Phoenix accounting firms to the highest grossing films of all time.