According to TV Guide Magazine in the US, network and studio executives have adopted a get-tough policy on salaries for stars of new shows coming up shortly. 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.
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, explains TV Guide.
There is an effort to keep talent costs down on their veteran hits as well. ABC which once had four actors earning $150,000 or more per episode, will only have 18 episodes next season instead of the typical 22. Some regulars will appear in fewer episodes.
So who remain some of the top earners? In Comedy, the top earner by far is Charlie Sheen who earns $1.25m per episode for Two and a Half Men. He is followed by Jon Cryer who gets $550,000 in same show.
In Drama Hugh Laurie earns $400,000+ per House episode, Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay ear $395,000 each per Law & Order episode while David Caruso (CSI:Miami), Marg Helgenberger (CSI) and Mark Harmon (NCIS) all earn $375,000 per episode.
The annual pay cheque in Reality for Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) is $15m, followed by Joel McHale (The Soup) and Piers Morgan (America’s Got Talent) with $2m each.