Statuettes not a factor in fringe benefits for casts

It’s difficult to calculate just how much winning an Emmy impacts a performer’s personal bottom line. We know that earning an Oscar tends to inflate one’s bank account fairly rapidly in terms of asking fees, but for an actor or actress already locked into a series, the equation clearly differs.

The Emmys have frankly not proven a factor in the financial picture for successful shows such as “ER” and “Friends.” While “ER” has paced the drama series nominees during its first four seasons on the air, it has earned a mere six statuettes (five of them in technical categories) to show for its 62 nods over the past three years, after winning eight in its freshman campaign. Of the “ER” cast, only Julianna Margulies has taken home the gold.

Still, each member of the main cast of “ER” received a tidy $1 million bonus from Warner Bros. TV upon reaching the show’s 100th episode. But Warner’s wasn’t quite as generous with the six leads on “Friends,” which has not exactly proven to be an Emmy darling, emerging Emmy-less until Lisa Kudrow’s upset win last year for supporting comedy series actress.

Each member of the cast was handed a check for $300,000 when the comedy hit the century mark. Not a bad little piece of change, to be sure, but peanuts compared with the docs.

One needs to travel down the financial chain still further to find the bonus that Warner Bros. awarded the leads on the Emmy-less “The Drew Carey Show” upon reaching 100 episodes this spring. They each received a reported $50,000 and a gumball machine.

The disparity begs the question: Is “ER” worth that much more to Warner Bros. than is “Drew Carey”? And why would the high-profile “Friends” regulars receive bonuses equaling less than a third of that bequeathed to the “ER” gang?

Perhaps most importantly: Is the monetary difference reflective of how the studio views the comparative value of the “ER,” “Friends” and “Drew Carey” casts?

“I think the obvious answer would have to be ‘Yes,’ ” believes one Warner Bros. TV exec. “NBC is paying such a huge license fee for ‘ER’ that, at some point, some of that money has to flow back to the cast. ‘Friends’ has a high-profile cast, but it doesn’t command the ad revenue that ‘ER’ does.”

As for “Drew Carey,” the Warner’s insider said, “That’s a true ensemble show. The lower bonus shouldn’t be construed as a slap in the face to the cast or an indication that this cast isn’t valued.”

It may be difficult, though, for the “Drew” stars not to be insulted by their comparatively minuscule check. Says one agent who represents comedy clients: ‘I would be majorly pissed if I were them.”

So, while the stauettes may increase increase an actor’s profile, there is no guarantee that the big money will roll in with the acceptance speech.

“At the end of the day, Emmys look nice on a mantel, but the networks and the studios don’t care all that much about them after the night you win them,” believes one series producer. “Emmys certainly don’t leave anyone feeling obligated to reward the honoree with a fat check. Only big ratings inspire that kind of largesse.”

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