‘The Big Bang Theory’ Stars Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch Seek Parity in New Contract

The Big Bang Theory
Courtesy of CBS

The last hurdle to Warner Bros. TV and CBS clinching a two-season renewal of “The Big Bang Theory” is setting a new contract with actresses Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

According to multiple sources, the five original cast members on the show – Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg — made the extraordinary gesture of taking a small pay cut to free up money for raises for Bialik and Rauch. The move is evidence of the strong camaraderie among the key players on the show that remains primetime’s most-watched comedy. The general harmony behind the scenes has also contributed to the show’s enduring creative strength, bolstered by the comedic chops of the core ensemble.

But as the dealmaking for what might be the final two seasons of “Big Bang” hits the home stretch, reps for Bialik and Rauch are said to be pressing for the studio to add some more coin to their paychecks as well.

Bialik and Rauch both joined “Big Bang” in season three and thus have to date earned significantly less than their co-stars. Both actresses are in the $200,000 per episode range this season, the show’s 10th, compared to $1 million per episode for the original five.

In the renewal talks that began late last year, the original cast members agreed to take a $100,000 cut in salary for the prospective 11th and 12th seasons to free up $500,000 to fund raises for Bialik and Rauch.

If Bialik and Rauch split the $500,000 from their co-stars, both would rise to nearly $450,000 an episode, or more than $21 million for the two-year, 48-episode deal. The question now is whether the two will hold firm for parity, or at least closer to parity, with the other stars. Negotiations on Bialik and Rauch’s deals are just beginning in earnest this week.

There’s little debate about whether the actresses have become integral to the world of “Big Bang.” Bialik’s Amy Farrah Fowler is the girlfriend of Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper, a relationship that has added emotional depth to the show. Rauch’s Bernadette Rostenkowski had a baby earlier this season with Helberg’s Howard Wolowitz’s character, which provided another source of highly rated episodes. Bialik has nabbed four consecutive supporting actress Emmy noms from 2012-15.

In the last “Big Bang” contract renewal cycle, Helberg and Nayyar secured raises that eventually brought them to seven-figure parity (as of this current season) with Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco.

But the timing for Bialik and Rauch to reach the high six-figure threshold is not as optimum as it was three years ago for Helberg and Nayyar.

The show has grossed over $1 billion in syndication for Warner Bros. Because of the way the cable and broadcast syndication deals are structured for long-running shows, “Big Bang” won’t generate much incremental revenue from the additional 48 episodes to come in an 11th and 12th seasons.

Cabler TBS and the TV stations that carry “Big Bang” reruns pay for the show by the week, not by the episode, for a pre-set license term. That means Warner Bros. will make the same fees with the existing 230 episodes as it would by adding another 48 installments to the mix. An SVOD licensing deal for “Big Bang” is believed to be in the works at long last (now that cable and broadcast syndication exclusivity terms have ended) but that too will most likely be based on a flat fee for a license term rather than an episode-based pricing model. With the big SVOD outlets increasingly plowing more resources into original programming, spending on off-network acquisitions has become tighter. “Big Bang” will surely draw strong interest, but the promise of additional episodes to come in 2018 and 2019 probably won’t drive the pricetag higher.

And finally, CBS’ license fee for the show no longer covers all production costs, as it did in earlier seasons. That fee is believed to be in the $6 million-$7 million range under the new deal. The salaries of the five original actors alone take up $5 million of that fee.

As a business proposition, the “Big Bang” cast renewal deals also come as Warner Bros. TV parent Time Warner is in the midst of navigating its $85.4 billion merger agreement with AT&T. In this environment, spending decisions are being heavily scrutinized. As successful as “Big Bang” has been for the studio, the new episodes won’t yield the kind of windfall for the studio that might otherwise grease the wheels for dealmaking in the coming days for Bialik and Rauch.

There is optimism at both the studio and the network that a deal will get done.

Reps for Warner Bros. TV, CBS, Bialik and Rauch declined to comment.

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  1. ash says:

    At the Big Bang Theory there have been issues with the actors contracts disputed between the actors and CBS production. The actors and CBS were negotiating the terms of the contract with Nina Tassler stating “We’re feeling very confident that everything will work out. These deals manage to get done somehow miraculously year after year.”
    In my opinion if CBS and the actors cant come to some agreement with terms and conditions CBS would be in jeopardy of not having a show. In my opinion as the programme is very successful CBS will have to re negotiate or lose the whole group of actors.

  2. Mike says:

    Those two are equal to the other cast members. I personally love the Amy Fowler character and think she has added a great deal to the show. I have to agree about the character of Kunal Nayyar, they have not done much growth or change with him. He is the oddball of the cast to me. Even Stuart seems to be more interesting these days. I like how Stuart lives with Leonard and Bernadette now. It seems to work.

  3. Joe P says:

    The producers could save $1 million by dropping Kunal Nayyar from the show. His character, who does little more than sulk, is the only one who hasn’t grown through the years.

  4. Shannon Boldman says:

    Just get rid of Leonard and reduce Raj’s character. They are a drain on the show.

  5. John Cronin says:

    It is commendable for the cast for taking pay cuts to address this problem. It is, however, reprehensible that Warner Bros and CBS have allowed this unfairness to continue so long.

  6. ivan diablo says:

    $450K per EPISODE is not enuf ? oye vey – hint ; nobody watches TBBT for these 2 ‘actors’

  7. adam says:

    Aren’t these Hollywood celebs supposed to be protesting against that evil “1%” group of elite rich people?

  8. kim says:

    oh please give me a break…. you are paid that amount of money to act? I would bend down and kiss the ground to make one quarter of that… be blessed you selfish actors…. you make more than I could ever hope to and I work my ass off daily to just make ends meet……

    • Rex the Wonder Dog says:

      Nobody wants to see you though. Just like people would prefer to watch Tom Brady throw a football.

  9. millerfilm says:

    Wow! A show that’s been seriously on fumes for seasons only exists now as product, no different that processed cheese.

  10. andrea frost says:

    good on them for being paid as much as the economy will allow.
    People obviously watch this show…(I dont)…
    obviously popular which brings in revenue.
    So the laissez fair free economy is what drives our economies.
    So all in all good luck to the actors/producers/backers..all good..
    Except..I would love to be paid that amount of money to actually READ what someone else has written.!
    The TRUE earners of big bucks should be the WRITERS..
    no script..there would be no actors…no show…
    the Writers are the KEY in all forms of entertainment..

  11. Yeah they get paid way too much, in comparison to others around the world and not to mention labour workers they are paid too much however its the cost of production as stated actors careers are short and constantly have to look for other contracts in order to keep the money flowing however why they are paid for what they do while military veterans and officers that risk their lives are paid significantly less is disgusting not to mention just because you earn that salary now does not mean you need to live like it, their are many celebrities that despite their earnings they live average, no mansions, ultra sports cars super expensive clothes, but they tend to spoil themselves sometimes. It’s about being smart with your money because once the cash flow ends you got nothing, but if you live smart and the cash flow ends you have something to fall back on until you can get it going again. not to mention if actors build good ties in the industry not just with other actors but producers and such they will always be considered first for larger roles than starting actors.

  12. Doug McCrae says:

    I find it scandalous that so called TV Actors are beinf paid such exorbitant amount of money..Why the hell do they fell that they merit $450,000 to $!,000,000 per 24 min episode. when there are thousnads of people who are losing their jobs hand over fist with Factories closing all over the world….Shame on all the Greedy people of the world..Actors, Singers, and Sports Stars all being paid WAY TOO Much…Some small counties entire GDP is smaller than some of your US Sports Teams Salaries…..Time it stopped and they were paid more reasonable salaries.

  13. andrew peake says:

    over paid and greedy comes to mine where there are people staving in this world

  14. gabe says:

    final 2 seasons wow

  15. I have always loved this show. But come on, let’s be real. $1 million per actor per show is F’in ridiculous… This is one of the problems the entertainment industry. They are all overpaid.

    • Report Me says:

      It’s how it works in the latter stages of a show, they’re not overpaid in the slightest. The first few seasons of any show the salaries are low, but together you build something that now has value. TV is much more alchemical than film. When you’re on the verge of nearing syndication level, the producers and all sorts of people are set to make bookoo bucks. So why should the actors be left out? They have much shorter careers than the producers and executives, and even with the 7 figure salaries they still make less. And, arguably, it’s the actor chemistry that makes a “hit” or else every show would be a hit show – if all credit for hits belong to the production and call the actors simply performing monkeys then why don’t they have a perfect formula for producing hits? Because the actors are the icing on the cake, no one will taste how delicious the cake’s filling is if the icing is atrocious.

  16. Shelley says:

    Typo – …like the main characters they are.

  17. Shelley says:

    Anyone who thinks they could do the show without them doesn’t watch the show. They have been part of the cast as main characters for a couple of years. I think at a minimum the original cast could have given up $200,000. For the them to make so much less is upsetting and unacceptable. But I love the show so I really hope they can work it out and treat them like the main charters they are.

  18. This is a good show and I am glad that the original 5 care about the two that they would do such thing. The two are great additions to the interesting geeky show. They are great actresses and should be kept.

  19. Jenn Graham says:

    They deserve equal pay. The fact that they are women and paid so much less is notable, no?

    • Buzz off with the stuff man, it was already stated that they were paid less because they’ve been in less seasons and was stated Kaley Cuoco was paid the same amount as the others, honestly its this stuff that is an irritant that annoys people, one person spouting out crap with nothing to back it up and the only thing to back it up is essentially misread or ignored information, in the end they agree to a contract with the payment stated if they cared how much it was they would say something they don’t need Feminists speak ever! I watched a as a UFC fighter said (a Female one) she is the highest paid female fighter and thinks you should get paid more because you bring more in so essentially the pay reflects the popularity and etc of your character.
      I am tired of men are paid more and if anyone tried to dispute it the information is rejected because it isn’t in favour of them and is on the side of facts and intelligence, it has been shown and stated time and time again there are other factors that home in as to why men and women are paid differently starting from job, location, situation, illness, danger pay rate, etc. It’s not just simply your paid more and I should have the same as him, okay with that logic then everyone in other countries should all be paid the same, so which country will be the one that sets the bar of how much other countries need to pay their people because remember, USD and AUD and JPY is not the same and would constantly need to be altered and updated but hey why should japanese and australian women and men be paid less then american ones yeah? I can go on for hours to shut this petty baseless thought down but sadly I have to go to work and guess what i’m paid less then one of my friends and she’s a girl (shock horror) and we do the same job but she’s been on longer than I have.

      Cheers.

    • Oh god. Here is the inequality pay between men and women.
      Kayley gets paid the exact same as the 4 men. There’s a reason for this. They are the original four and the sole reason that propelled the show to the financial pot it is now. Bernadette and Amy (now) bring nothing to the show and are rarely funny. They are not integral, thus they get paid less. Use your brain rather than blaming the fact of them not getting paid as much is because they are women.

    • Sean says:

      No it is not. Up until recently they were not main character, that is why they make less; not their gender.

  20. james says:

    People still watch this 30 minute commercial full of ad placements and they want raises? Bahahaha! Better invest your money. It’s your last season. You guys suck.

  21. Two Thirty says:

    Any deal that has Johnny Galecki being paid as much or more than Melissa or Mayim needs to be re-thought. Melissa and Mayim are two of the better characters on that show, and Johnny should have stayed in that elevator car when the explosion went off.

  22. Sandra says:

    I would not be upset if “Melissa” left – her voice is so high-pitched, can’t understand her most of the time.

  23. Yirmin Snipe says:

    Why aren’t the co-stars giving up 200,000 each? If they did then everyone would be able to make 800,000 an episode. And ya know that would be the liberals actually practicing what they preach. They love to preach equality but when it get down to it they suddenly become the pigs from Animal Farm deserving of better treatment than the lesser animals.

  24. chinitapr says:

    It’s only fair. At this point they are an ensemble cast.

  25. It's golden says:

    Big Bangs problem is that it’s on some channel 24/7.

  26. Heath says:

    Equal pay for equal work, nuff said. The addition of these ladies extended the life of the show, why should they make a third or less than half what their costars make?

    • Liza says:

      Agree that the two women have added to the show creatively and to its longevity. Can’t believe both are still paid only $200k. Still, there is something to be said for being part of the original cast and for seniority. Either of the women would be greatly missed, but the original five are irreplaceable.

    • chinitapr says:

      Exactly.

      • Pepsijunkie says:

        Exactly. The show has $5 million for actor salary. Split it evenly 7 ways and you have a show that is in budget for the studio and justice for the actors. Wait, what’s that you say? Galecki, Parsons and the rest won’t take a pay cut to make it 100% fair and square? Hmmm seems Hollywood isn’t practicing what they preach. Yes I believe equal pay for equal work. But let us not forget these people are making MILLIONS per year. A 15 or 20 episode season puts them squarely in the 1%ers category. These people are not poor. So a sad story lamenting unfairness just doesn’t play in my 16 hr work day making a fraction of their money. They’re entitled to their pay, sure, I’m not saying otherwise. Just don’t try to make me feel bad for them just cuz they’re famous.

  27. Joe says:

    The men are probably ‘guilt-ridden’ over Hillary losing and want to ‘equalize’ things in their little minds. Like a lot of long running shows it will be cancelled soon because of all the rising salaries and lower ratings. It happened to Full House.

  28. Karen says:

    If they can’t reach a deal with those 2, they can and should still renew. The show originally was just the guys + Penny.

  29. Faye Kannews says:

    Interesting to hear the writer of this story take an angle that seems to side with the producers of the show going with the theory that these additional episodes won’t generate enough money to justify the raises.

    I think another writer could take the opposing angle and point out how Seinfeld went on to make another $180 million from something called Hulu.com that no one could have seen coming while pointing out the recent launch of Youtube TV just this week & who knows what else in coming years. Give’EmThe$$$

  30. chinitapr says:

    You

  31. Patrick says:

    It’s the show.

  32. nycityny says:

    It’s you.

  33. hirsty says:

    Definitely you.

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