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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are TV Personalities Worth the Money They Get

“It is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation. It seems perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no purpose to life or the universe, indeed whose only moral drive seems to be sneering at their fellow human beings who do have a sense of purpose.” —Dinesh D’Souza

Its 11:08 a.m. and I am sitting in the patient waiting room at Menifee Valley Hospital while waiting for Kathy to get a new Energizer Bunny battery in her pacemaker. The whole procedure should take about an hour.

Before getting to the patient waiting room we had to first go to admissions and wait while they retrieved her check in information that had been competed on Tuesday after she had blood tests and a chest X-Ray. This gave me a chance to watch Judy surf the web and talk to her friends in Spanish. I guess the hospital isn’t very busy this morning. So while I am waiting I will write this Blog post.

TV Guide reports, that if you're an actor who lands a lead role on a TV series, you can count on a big payday. But it won't be as big as it used to be.

Network and studio executives tell TV Guide Magazine they've adopted a get-tough policy on salaries for stars of the new fall shows. While the salary for a lead has been $150,000 to $200,000 per episode in recent years, most deals for stars of new series were between $75,000 and $125,000. "No one broke the bank on anything this year," says one former studio head.

A case in point is a negotiation with a veteran film actor who for years has been coveted by several networks to do series TV. He was in discussions for a lead role in one of the new dramas that made the fall schedule. His asking price was $250,000. The network and the studio said no way. When the actor refused to go below $200,000, the network and studio moved on and hired someone else.

Why the hard line? The broadcast networks have been in a cost-cutting mode since ad revenues were hard-hit by the recession. While the ad market is recovering, they are also coping with a changing long-term financial picture as DVR playback and online viewing have greatly diminished the ratings on the second network run of shows, once the source of windfall profits.

There is an effort to keep talent costs down on their veteran hits as well. ABC's Brothers & Sisters, which once had four actors earning $150,000 or more per episode, will lose Rob Lowe and have only 18 episodes next season instead of the typical 22. Some regulars will appear in fewer episodes. Marg Helgenberger's new deal with CSI also calls for her to have a lighter workload next season and helps to trim the show's budget in the face of declining ratings.

If a show is on the rise, it's a different story. The stars of The Big Bang Theory—Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco—all currently make well under $100,000 per episode. Their bank accounts are about to benefit from the show's rise to the top of Nielsen rankings among viewers in the 18 to 49 age group and a successful sale into syndication. "I think they'll give an extra year to their studio, Warner Bros., in exchange for each of them getting $150,000 to $200,000 an episode," says one network executive. "They'll get bumps from there and could get up to $300,000 an episode. If it's a hit show, you start paying."

Here are some of the top earners, by category:

Drama (per episode)

Hugh Laurie (House) $400,000+
Christopher Meloni & Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU) $395,000 (each)
David Caruso (CSI: Miami) $375,000
Marg Helgenberger (CSI) $375,000
Mark Harmon (NCIS) $375,000
Laurence Fishburne (CSI) $350,000
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)  $350,000
Gary Sinise (CSI: NY ) $275,000
Patrick Dempsey (Grey's Anatomy)  $250,000
LL Cool J (NCIS: Los Angeles) $125,000
Chris O'Donnell (NCIS: Los Angeles) $125,000
Mark Feuerstein (Royal Pains) $125,000
Jason Lee (Memphis Beat) $125,000
Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds) $125,000
Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods) $125,000
Michael Weatherly (NCIS) $125,000
Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds) $100,000
Angie Harmon (Rizzoli & Isles) $75,000

Late Night/Talk Syndication (per year)

Oprah Winfrey $315 million
Judge Judy Sheindlin $45 million
David Letterman (The Late Show) $28 million
Jay Leno (The Tonight Show) $25 million
Conan O'Brien (The Conan O'Brien Show) $10 million
Ellen DeGeneres (The Ellen DeGeneres Show) $8 million
Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live) $6 million
Chelsea Handler (Chelsea Lately) $3.5 million
George Lopez (Lopez Tonight) $3.5 million

Reality (per year)

Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) $15 million
Joel McHale (The Soup) $2 million
Piers Morgan (America's Got Talent) $2 million
Kate Gosselin (Kate Plus 8) $250,000 per episode
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi (Jersey Shore) $30,000 per episode

Comedy (per episode)

Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men) $1.25 million
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men) $550,000
Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons) $400,000
Julie Kavner (The Simpsons) $400,000
Tina Fey (30 Rock) $350,000
Jeremy Piven (Entourage) $350,000
Steve Carell (The Office) $297,000
Angus T. Jones (Two and a Half Men) $250,000

News (per year)

Matt Lauer (Today) $16 million +
Katie Couric (CBS) $15 million
Brian Williams (NBC) $12.5 million
Diane Sawyer (ABC) $12 million
Meredith Vieira (Today) $11 million
Bill O'Reilly (Fox News) $10 million
George Stephanopoulos (ABC) $8 million
Keith Olbermann (MSNBC) $7 million
Shepard Smith (Fox News) $7 million
Wolf Blitzer (CNN) $3 million
Christiane Amanpour (ABC) $2 million
Lawrence O'Donnell (MSNBC) $2 million
Eliot Spitzer (CNN) $500,000

For the full article and to see more salaries please click here

I know that TV is a ratings game and you are generally paid by the viewers you can draw to your show. I am amazed at the salaries of the news and talk show hosts. Keith Olbermann and Shepard Smith earn the same salaries yet FOX out draws MSNBC by 3 to 1. Bill O’Reilly out draws ABC, NBC and CBS News every night yet Diane Sawyer. Brian Williams and Katie Couric are higher paid. If they are judged on the quality and factual content of the news the deliver each night they certainly are not worth the money they receive.

I have to go now the cardiologist just came out an told me all went well and my wife is good to go for another 8-10 years with her new device.

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