Doctor, lawyer, entertainment reporter—whatever line of work you chose, consider it the wrong one. In a world where Reese Witherspoon is earning more than $1 million per episode for her new Apple series and the kids from Stranger Things are banking around $250,000 per episode, seem to just keep rising to new, vertiginous heights. The only thing that helps us sleep at night is knowing that television’s highest-paid stars are all doing great work on the hit shows we currently enjoy. We’re less forgiving to the cast of Friends, who haven’t been together for a new episode since 2004 and yet are still raking in all kinds of crazy money.
Jealousy, thy name is syndication profits.
Viewers love Friends, which makes sense—it was a Hall of Fame sitcom. We might throw on “Smelly Cat” in the office right now just for a mid-morning dance break. Friends is so incredibly popular that Netflix just shelled out $80 million to ensure the series—which is one of the company’s most popular non-originals— remains on the streamer through 2019. But the unfathomable amount of money the cast is still earning from the series is downright jaw-dropping.
According to Market Place:
“The cast’s per episode paycheck [$1 million per episode for seasons 9 and 10] wasn’t the only dough they were receiving from the show. After season six was over and it was back to the negotiation table, they all started receiving a portion of the show’s syndication profits. Today, all six of them still receive 2 percent of syndication income, or $20 million each per year, since the show still brings in $1 billion annually for Warner Bros. Now that the Netflix deal is going through, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer can expect to see even more on their checks.”
CBS’ The Big Bang Theory may be television’s most-watched sitcom these days and the cast’s salaries certainly match that perception. But do you really think they, or anyone, should be earning upwards of $20 million per year 14 years after their shows go off the air? We didn’t think so.
So what’s the lesson here, kids? All you have to do to be successful in life is get yourself on a hit sitcom that runs for 10 years and gets picked up by every channel and streamer in syndication. Easy.