Salaries of TV’s Top Talent Revealed

TV Salary

The peak TV era has increased the paychecks of in-demand talent to eye-popping levels. The high fees for television’s 1% — at a time when business models, episode orders, and distribution strategies are in the midst of a massive transition — has exacerbated the earnings gap between stars and supporting players.



Stars’ Soaring Salaries Rattle TV Business

Variety conducted a wide survey of actors, executives, attorneys, agents, managers, and other representatives in an effort to offer a snapshot of the earnings power of talent at all levels in primetime, late-night, daytime, and news. The figures presented here are estimates based on extensive research to determine talent paydays in the most current seasons of specific series. In some cases, those numbers include backend fees. These numbers do not reflect income that many actors and personalities realize from other projects, licensing and merchandising, and business ventures.





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  1. Fran says:

    Not suprised most Black Actors or Entertainers are getting paid less even though their shows have the highest ratings. Racism at it’s best.

  2. Moses says:

    ⦁ It is terrible that African Americans are paid less in Hollywood.
    ⦁ African Americans, women and people of color need better business representation in contract deals and negotiation
    ⦁ Movie and TV need improve wages to people of color like African Americans.
    ⦁ Shows and movies with African Americans are likely to be profitable.
    ⦁ African American, people of color need to be paid more

  3. Toad Princess says:

    Salaries for Actors and Actresses are obscene. There is no real talent involved. They even have the audacity to pat themselves on the back with awards and red carpet events. Do they not know shame?

  4. Seeker says:

    This is a big rip off the black-americans actors/entertainers are still seen/treated as vassals in the whiteman’s plantation farm in this time and age in terms of payments.What a shame!

    • Toad Princess says:

      Nope not any longer .. watch any tv drama.. a black guy will play the part of the boss.. ie.. chief of police,judge, etc..

      • Torey Crosby says:

        So black people aren’t as talented as white people…..?

      • Dave F says:

        Spare us the racial crying. People are either famous for their ability or not. Has nothing to do with the color of their skin. All that racial crying does is defeat any real discrimination complaint and turn people off.

  5. Bell D says:

    Well, hopefully getting this info works out for the good of the black actors. I am not in show biz, but have been the first/only most of my career. Twice my white counter parts (with ugly agendas, they were jealous)gave me the info of my lower than their salary. I was hurt but proactive. After all, I had fought so hard just to get a seat at the table. I was not a token, I was qualifed for my job. The result is I am one of the highest paid of the professionals who do what I do. (

  6. Antone says:

    That’s sad that race determines the outcome of these human beings who do the same thing for a living but still are not fairly compensated….

  7. BD says:

    Those Game of Thrones actors are very much overpaid. They don’t do a lot of work considering that this show has about 1000 characters and sometimes you don’t see these people for an entire episode. Regardless of ratings or pop culture success. They’re making half of what the Big Bang cast makes who show up on every episode, 24 episodes a year and still huge ratings. (Not talking about quality, here. Just in case).

    • Toad Princess says:

      Big bang is not in the slightest bit funny.. It should be scrapped. The actors are grossly overpaid.. I hope the show gets cancelled. Especially because of the most annoying one.. Sheldon.. always on a downer and so sarcastic… lowest form of whit…

      • Jason says:

        Who died and made you god? Because you don’t think a show is funny it should be cancelled? It’s a number one rated show so clearly others are enjoying it. But because you’re not, it should be scrapped? Selfish much?

    • Pedro says:

      Shooting a sitcom is a piece of cake. It takes 3 days to shoot an episode and those often are not 12h days. Game Of Thrones shoots on location for months.

      Also, because they shoot 24 episodes instead of 10, BBT cast makes a lot more money.

    • BD says:

      Forgot to mention: Surprised to see the Transparent cast get so much money compared to people like GIna Rodriguez, Tracee Ross and others. I guess it makes sense considering this is Amazon’s only success from about 50 shows they’ve tried to make happen. Gotta keep the Transparent cast happy.

  8. Fred84 says:

    Robin Wright gets equal pay to Kevin Spacey on House of Cards so why isn’t she included on the list?

  9. David Ireland says:

    Regarding the salaries of most listed, this is an opinion-based article. Very few celebs state the figures is in their personal contracts. Networks don’t reveal the details of their contracts either for obvious reasons. Some articles claim Judge Judy makes $22M. Others claims she’s at $80M, Both figures are a lot of money but the variance is huge variance. The same goes for most of the other A-listers as well.

    Where are Varieties sources? They list “industry sources”, a generic term that could be custodians, electricians, and camera operators to producers and network execs who work in the industry.

    It’s obvious that the A-listers mentioned make a lot of money but only a few people know the details – the employer, the employee, and the lawyers (agents) that represent each. The stated salaries are merely opinions that might be close is some cases and way, way off in others.

  10. Brian Dzyak says:

    It’s nice to see that teacher salaries have gone way up too. The USA finally has it’s priorities straight.

  11. Calvin says:

    It’s disgusting and we are all to blame. What about the people that really matter, fire fighters, nurses , teachers, police , on and on ?

    • Pedro says:

      People vocte Republican and they cut the budgets for all of these fields while giving the rich, like big name actors, tax breaks.

    • David Ireland says:

      Fire fighters and nurses want to be fire fighters and nurses. They knew what the pay was before entering the profession. Actors, newscasters, and musicians want to do what they do too. For every high paid actor, newscaster, and musician, there is several thousand actors, newscasters, and musicians struggling to get by.

      You have a better chance of winning the lottery than becoming a Hollywood A-lister and very, very few people are willing to take that risk. As always, the bigger the risk, the bigger the potential reward might be. Personally, I’m very happy with my salary and my privacy. Are you?

  12. fred flintstone says:

    I can still be a tree.I want 50,000 per episode,plus royalties.I can be lude.rude,and crude,with no morals or social values.Divorce my bush ,change tree sex,and roll down the red carpet.

    • Bell D says:

      If everyone in the world had the same goals and credentials, someone would still have to be the fire fighters, teachers, secretaries, maids. We really need to get a grip on how we worship idols.

  13. fred flintstone says:

    After all I was a Christmas tree on time,in a play.So I don’t patronize the a-holes,that don’t seem to know where the bottom line money comes from.Free t.v. for me sometimes.

  14. fred flintstone says:

    I’m on Social Security now.Makes me feel blessed.Where did I go wrong,I act up all the time.

  15. Wow, I can’t believe any of those in the entertainment or news business have any right to complain about the salaries of CEO’s in business. Those salaries are ridiculous and unwarranted. If they got paid what they should be paid all of our lifestyles would be far less expensive. The shows need advertising and charge companies X amount, to cover the expense of these ridiculous salaries, for that advertising. These companies then pass that on to the consumer. So when you want to complain about how expensive something is remember it’s to pay for the salaries of actors and news people. Oh, and the increase in wages for the servers now will increase the cost of going out. I don’t mind paying people more than $8 /hour or what ever but doubling is not right across the board. Fast food etc in expensive cities already pay their help more. Those in rural areas don’t because the cost of living isn’t as expensive.

  16. Jem says:

    Minority actors are getting chump change as pay. Viola is an Emmy winner yet her salary is way below fellow actors on the same network. That’s ridiculous.

    • Toad Princess says:

      Nope she is paid correctly. The others are vastly over paid for doing part time unskilled jobs.

    • Dave crowder says:

      You are just looking for racism. Check out some of the well know White folks that have been around longer and get your head out of your racist azz. (Geena Davis, Selleck, Bakula

      • Ric Flair says:

        Viola’s “How to Get Away with Murder” is doing exceptionally well in the ratings. And has been since it’s debut. She is an accomplished Television and Film actress…. a workhorse! Her recent accolades coupled with the show’s ratings is not commensurate with the estimated annual salary in this article. Instead of accusing Jem of being a racist, let’s stick with the facts. Viola Davis IS receiving chump change in comparison to other actors and actresses on network television who star on shows with lower ratings. Viola Davis is a Emmy Winner, becoming the FIRST black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama for her work on How to Get Away With Murder in 2016. I agree with Jem, the disparity in salary (if this article is remotely accurate) is ridiculous.

  17. Belmon says:

    That’s huge for the Gilmore Girls! The original episodes must do great on Netflix for them to be willing to pay so much for a new season.

  18. amusawale says:

    How is Jensen Ackles on the list and Jared Padalecki isn’t?

  19. Matt Oldfield says:

    The most deserved salaries on any of the list is the 4 cast members of the Simpsons. They have earned their way up the ladder over 25 years.

  20. kirayoshi says:

    “””Added to this are the salaries of supporting cast members Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, who are both receiving $900,000 per episode this season.”””

  21. Bert Doms says:

    The women at the top of Drama and Reality need to be paid less in the name of equality. This gender pay gap cannot be tolerated.

  22. Jenna says:

    Well, since they’re all for equal pay – I say, salaries ought to be the same across the board on their shows. The actors/hosts are paid the same as the crew.

    And if Hillary wins, I say – celebrities are the first ones to be taxes 70% right off the top.

    That is all.

  23. frank stevy says:

    You should also show how many people and handlers between producers and Stars get a cut of celebrities paycheck . Agents get 15% typically , casting agents and PR people then get another 10% Typically and do not forget Uncle Sam getting his 35% and then state taxes ….. I would say that you can honestly say the Stars get about 40% of there salaries !

    • Brian Dzyak says:

      By law, agents get 10%. Managers can get 15%. Actors don’t pay casting agents. No wealthy person is really paying 35% in taxes. They do hire their own publicists sometimes along with a personal assistant and if they are successful enough, they pay for their own personal security team.

      And the word is “their” as in “”the Star get about 40% of THEIR salaries.”

      Clearly, you were just pulling nonsense out of your butt as if the numbers have anything to do with reality. Must be a Trump voter.

    • Johnny W says:

      “Casting agents”?? What the hell are you talking about?

  24. McWhitey says:

    Now here’s the question… how much are the crew members on these shows making?

    Given LA and NY constant finger wagging about income inequality, I doubt the folks at Variety would dare publish that comparison.

    • Brian Dzyak says:

      Depends on the type of production and length of the schedule. Crew is struggling as Conservative policies have created the conditions for Producers to be able to troll the planet for the biggest tax bribes/”incentives” and the cheapest crew.

      Very few, if any crew, are what you’d call wealthy. Most are just struggling Middle Class folk like most other people. Some really struggle to get enough work that pays well, so they stick it out and struggle or leave the business altogether.

      But in no way is anyone on set swimming in money like the talent are.

  25. pabkey says:

    this is what they earned in the 2015-16 season or the 2016-17 season?

  26. Frank says:

    For several years I thought only professional athletes were overpaid now it appears TV show stars also fall in that category, many of the comedy shows aren’t really very funny
    so I don’t watch them anymore.

  27. Mike says:

    Good for them! Nothing to be upset about. If they generate $1 billion or more per year for their parent company, than these highly paid actors are worth their salaries.

    Similarly, my company’s CEO makes around $15 million per year, yet the company generates billions. It’s all relative.

  28. Joe_D says:

    Why did Variety leave Big Bang Theory cast members Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar off the list. They reportedly make $800,000.00 per episode and it would appear that they should be #3 and #4 on the list. Is this sloppy reporting or does Variety have something against Helberg and Nayyar? If Variety missed the 3rd and 4th highest paid actors are there other mistakes are there in their article?

    • Squealy says:

      Despite the headlines, these lists are just samplings of salaries at different levels. They aren’t comprehensive lists of the highest paid actors, i.e. it’s not like every other actor or host on television makes less than who’s shown here.

    • Joe_D says:

      Sorry….. meant to say 4th & 5th highest paid.

      • Johnny W says:

        Where’s Ed O’Neill from Modern Family? Wouldn’t be surprised if he was making more than anyone, since he was the only real star when the show first launched.

      • Diane Raetz says:

        Same thing with Blake Shelton. If Miley and Adam are making between 13-15 Million, shouldn’t we assume Blake is in the same range? I wouldn’t guess with Alicia-her musical reputation could earn her more

  29. Gemally Yayhoo says:

    Thank God I have weened myself from TV, the only names I recognized were the Fox news. Now I need to stop watching Fox too, cause they are as bad as the rest.

  30. I find it interesting that Andrew Lincoln or Norman Reedus, two actors in one of the most popular shows, a show that gets about 13 – 15 million viewers a week, aren’t on there, along with a couple of their female counterparts.

  31. TorExitNode40 says:

    I had to get down to 5 foot nothing Nancy Cartwright before I recognized a name, and she doesn’t even appear in an episode, only her voice. But she has been part of the Simpsons since the beginning.

    The others, meh.

  32. franky says:

    i always wondered how much money the CW actors hearn, since they are a network but with poor ratings, i expected poor salaries as well but judging by the guy from Supernatural i say thsy are pretty lucky. i wonder how the other less popular actors get. any idea?

  33. Benjamin Eaton says:

    Most of these people/shows must be on cable as I recognize some of the names but the shows are total unknowns. If it’s not streamed I have no idea what the shows are and could not care less about them.

  34. Ashley says:

    I’m curious where Liev Schreiber would land on the drama list. He has to be above his fellow Showtimers Sheen and Caplan.

    Allison Janney would be another interesting one to know.

    Ted Danson nearly doubling Kristen Bell is absurd. He should be higher, yes, but not by that margin.

  35. danoregon says:

    A lot of these shows never would have gotten off the ground without the attached stars – so hell yes you pay them. In other cases successful shows don’t want to mess with chemistry, so they pay to keep an ensemble together.
    I find it hard to believe Matt Lauer is that much more crucial to Today’s success than Robin Roberts is to GMA’s.

  36. Art Carney says:

    most of these show would do just fine without the high paid stars

  37. Anthony Fucito says:

    this list is sooooo incomplete – $30 million as annual salary from salary and net worth website.

    Vanna White – 8 million

    Anderson Cooper, whose net worth is $100 million, earns $11 million as salary from CNN plus an undisclosed amount from CBS.

  38. evelyn says:

    I don’t care who they are, no one is worth $1,000,000. per episode!!

    • Evelyn, yes there are people who are worth $1,000,000 per episode. If you are the actor that is pulling in the numbers that allow the production to make many many millions each week there is nothing wrong with being paid a fair share of the money. There have been actors paid more than $1,000,000 per show.

  39. TJ says:

    How much do they pay in taxes and how much do they donate to charity??

  40. Jake Masterson says:

    Amazing to me how so many Marxists can be such capitalists!

  41. konc2 says:

    No wonder my cable bill keeps going up.

  42. Will says:

    Women are making more than men. Judge Judy put the women over $40m above the men.

  43. Lisa Silver says:

    Where is Robin Wright, who was supposed to be paid the same as Spacey?

  44. Chaz says:

    I sure hope their paying their fair share in taxes…. this is crazy how much a small group of people make so much money per week(ep.)….

  45. CK says:

    All payments here listed are only secondarily for any so-called “talent” brought to the table. The primary purpose of these “payoffs” is compensation for lying, entertaining, and distracting the viewing public from the Truth of what is really happening to our country and society, and to keep quiet thereabout.

  46. DW says:

    Sorry, but Miley Cyrus IS NOT worth $13-15M for The Voice.
    Maybe if she took her clothes off? But alas, its a family show.

  47. Dr. Larry Bradshaw says:

    Rachel Maddow is worth $7 per year.

  48. Meso says:

    you racist rant is over played no one cares.

  49. Meso says:

    I am so glad I do not watch one single show that is listed in this BS report.

  50. Erik Poole says:

    Fox should save themselves $10 million and cut Shep Smith asap….definitely not worth it.

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