Pulling No Punches: TV Actors Fighting For Multimillion-Dollar Salaries

TV talent doesn't come cheap. But TV producers haven’t paid out as much as those paying certain high-profile athletes.

You may think $20 million for Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men” was a good take for an entire season -- or  for his replacement Ashton Kutcher, reported to have pulled in $24 million for a season.

But Sheen and Kutcher have nothing on Floyd Mayweather and the single TV program he starred in, the one where he fought and beat Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather reportedly will pull in $220 million for one fight:36 minutes of time in the ring.

Overall estimates are the fight grossed just over $600 million from all revenue -- pay-per-view receipts and otherwise -- the highest ever for a boxing match.

Yes, we realized a lot goes into that 36 minutes of fighting -- and an overall two-and-a-half-hour production. There is months of preparation. Still... $220 million!



Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees signed a 10-year contract in 2007 for $275 million, in part because of what the Yankees expected to receive from TV contracts and advertisers. The other big piece was actual ticket sales at Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, NBA player Tim Duncan has earned $235 million for his entire 18-year career.

Sports athletes can demand big salaries in recent decades because of ever-rising TV license fees from teams/leagues.

Don’t cry for loser Manny Pacquiao. He could wind up earning a little north of $150 million, which is about the current money LeBron James has made so far as perhaps the best basketball player on the planet.

Back to regular TV shows: Fractionalization of TV ratings has forced TV networks to seek other platforms looking for premium TV content -- the likes of Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu -- to make back for lost revenues (as well as retransmission fees).

Right now, three of the actors on “Big Bang Theory,” the high-rated CBS show, each make $1 million per episode — the highest current salary for TV stars. Will regular TV production costs continue to grow, along with TV talent salaries? Many don’t believe even with these new digital platforms additions, salaries will continue to climb.

Future actors will have to fight to maintain top TV dollars  -- figuratively, and perhaps literally -- to keep that going.

3 comments about "Pulling No Punches: TV Actors Fighting For Multimillion-Dollar Salaries".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 6, 2015 at 3:36 p.m.

    Interesting question to ponder Wayne. I'll even suggest that the natural fragmentation that comes from these big ideas about new distribution will ineherently force production costs and salaries down. It's what we've seen in cable. And while some shows will be able to be big dollar productions, the reality of fragmented distribution will be lower profits. 

    I suppose we can look at other media to see this. As the printed content business has fragmented and content has been distributed through multiple channels, the creators are earning less money. From what I hear reporter salaries are a real struggle. In music, only the few top acts are making good money - otherwise fragmented distribution has made the music biz weaker. Etc...

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 6, 2015 at 5:02 p.m.

    We have to remember that primetime TV shows that amass a large number of episodes "in the can"---so long as they are sitcoms and dramas with some degree of appeal--- become gold mines in syndication with their reruns generating collosal profits as they are recycled from one cable channel to the other. Because they are often "profit partners" with the producers, the broadcast networks frequently absorb a good share of these inflated salary costs during the orignal runs on national TV because they will reap a bonanza, later, when the shows go into syndication. Therefore high TV star salaries, which are nothing new, will continue to be with us----just as even higher contracts keep going to pro athletes. So long as the teams are profitable, they'll keep on paying.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 6, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

    1. Love Big Bang. 2. What do the the networks have in the can as in develpment ? Paying enough behind the scenes talent to develop terrific series that they can say to the in front talent who became stars (mostly all should be) because of the behind the scenes talent that they won't be paid $million per episode ? 3. The entire systems of entertainment and sports are broken and I don't expect to see them fixed in my lifetime. 

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