For TV’s biggest stars, a key role on a successful show means big paychecks – but the payoff doesn’t stop there. When shows are syndicated, redistributed, released on DVD, purchased by a streaming service or used beyond what the actors originally paid for, the actors earn a residual check called a royalty.
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So do all actors get paid for reruns? According to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, some do and some don’t. For major players, royalties can result in long-term rewards that exceed the original salary. Background actors, on the other hand, won’t get the rest of the check in the mail.
Find out how much your favorite TV stars get paid for reruns and more.
Last updated: June 25, 2021
“Friends” ran for 10 seasons between 1994 and 2004. The show featured Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow and, of course, Jennifer Aniston—one of the richest actresses of all time.
The success of the event still pays dividends for the players. In 2015, USA Today reported that Warner Bros. make $1 billion a year from “Friends.” Of that, 2% — or $20 million — goes to each star each year.
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One of the most beloved and successful sitcoms of all time, “Seinfeld”—a show about nothing—runs for nine seasons, ending in 1998. As far as payments to the cast, Jerry Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David take the lion’s share of royalties. because co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander have no stake in the show, according to the International Business Times.
David and Seinfeld can each make $400 million per syndication cycle, New York Magazine reports.
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‘Gilligan Island’ Royalties
While it’s one of the most famous sitcoms in history, “Gilligan’s Island” only lasted three seasons—the first of which was filmed in black and white. You can still watch the stranded castaways in streaming reruns, but one of the show’s stars claims the royalties never pay off.
Dawn Wells, who played the iconic Mary Ann, told Forbes in 2016 that “the misconception is that we have to get rich, roll the dough, because we get residue. We don’t really earn a dime.” He continued, “Sherwood Schwartz, our producer, reportedly makes $90 million from reruns alone.”
Characters like Thurston Howell III also couldn’t enjoy their riches, even if they were fictional.
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Royalties ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’
Ray Romano — one of the richest Emmy Award winners of all time — took the No. 94 on the Forbes 100 Celebrity list in 2013. Although publications mention Romano’s big-screen success, such as his character voice work in “Ice Age”, Forbes writes that Romano’s place on the list is largely attributed to “a large part of his annual earnings coming from the syndicated CBS sitcom that has long walk.”
Forbes refers to “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which ran for nine seasons, ending in 2005, and continues to be rerun on TV Land. Romano can make up to $18 million a year, mainly from the rest of the show, Forbes and Vanity Fair report.
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‘I Love Lucy’ Royalties
More than 60 years after the show premiered in 1957, reruns of the groundbreaking sitcom “I Love Lucy” can still be seen on CBS online and the Hallmark Channel—and continue to pay TV executives salaries.
In 2012, former CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves bragged to a meeting of bankers that “I Love Lucy” continued to draw in $20 million a year, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Lucille Ball, star of the eponymous “I Love Lucy,” died in 1989.
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Royalty ‘The Brady Bunch’
Generations of kids grew up with “The Brady Bunch,” and you can keep watching reruns on CBS online, Hulu, and the Hallmark Channel. The show, which ran from 1969 to 1974, was one of the most successful in history — but it didn’t make the stars rich, according to one cast member.
Eve Plumb, who plays Jan Brady, told OK! Magazine in 2011 that “the biggest misconception is that we all get richer from it, but we don’t. We haven’t been paid for show reruns in years. We make no money at all. “
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In a 2004 interview with John Mahoney, who played Martin Crane in “Frasier,” the Chicago Tribune wrote in reference to his salary and syndicated royalties that “there was enough in the bank to ensure he never had to work again on something he preferred. not.”
You can watch “Frasier” — which is one of the most expensive TV shows to produce — on the Hallmark Channel, Cozi TV, and CBS Online.
Mahoney died in 2018 at the age of 77.
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‘Home Improvement’ Royalties
“Home Improvements” enjoyed an eight-year run ending in 1999. Richard Karn, one of the stars of the show, told Australian publication News.com.au in 2016, “Every time a show is bought worldwide … you get a small percentage of it. . … You don’t want to live with it, but it’s a great type of annuity.”
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‘Two and a Half Men’ Royalties
In 2011, Charlie Sheen became embroiled in a public dispute with CBS over his lewd personal matters that would eventually get him fired from “Two and a Half Men.” The show had entered syndication three years earlier and enjoyed consistent status as a top-rated script comedy.
At the time, Fox News speculated that Sheen would earn $100 million more from the show on royalties alone. However, in 2016, the Associated Press reported that Sheen sold his participating interest in profits for $27 million.
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‘The Simpsons’ royalties
Before “The Simpsons” was a $13 billion global franchise, it was the obscure animated segment that appeared on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” Even though Ullman lost a 1992 lawsuit in which he sought merchandising fees, the comedian still cashed in.
During an interview with Andy Cohen, Ullman said he received residue from “The Simpsons” nearly 30 years after he created the central character. With a wink, he sarcastically said, “Yes, I hear from them four times a year.” When asked if the cut was significant, he replied, “Yeah, it’s not bad.”
Rapper 50 Cent cannot make the same claim. In 2017, TMZ reported that the musician and actor received a check from a cameo he made in “The Simpsons” for $16.68.
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‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ Royalties
He lives in a pineapple under the sea, but he’s guaranteed to be a household name on land. Bikini Bottom’s fried chef has turned into one of the most iconic cartoon characters in history, earning more than 700 licensing partners worldwide and grossing nearly $8 billion annually for Nickelodeon and MTV Networks, according to AdAge.
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