Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TV Salaries: Up, Up And Away?

Back in the 1980s I published a list of CBC star salaries that created quite a kerfuffle with my loyal Toronto Star readers.
There was great indignity among Toronto Star readers that leading reporters at the Corp were drawing as much as --gasp, gasp-- $90,000 a year.
The nerve! The very idea!
It remained for CBC-TV news honcho Denis Harvey to carefully explain that after all American newshounds could make millions more than that in a year.
These days CBS's Katie Couric pulls in $15 million a year as CBS's chief newsreader, a sum that seems just about right even though her ratings are but a pale shadow of former CBS icon Walter Cronkite.
And ratings for prime time U.S.TV shows went south years ago but that hardly stopped House's Hugh Laurie for demanding and getting $400,000 for each and every one of the 22 episodes of House he'll make this season.
Years and years ago Frasier's Kelsey Grammer racked in an identical salary and his was for a half hour sitcom as against Laurie's hourlong drama.
Other bigtop salaries revealed in The Hollywood Reporter: Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay each draw $395,000 for Law & Order: SVU which isn't even a Top Ten hit.
David Caruso of CBS's CSIU: Miami gets a pay packet worth $375,000 while Castle's Nathan Fillion draws $100,000 as does Jon Hamm of Mad Men (which only has 13 new episodes a year).
These figures pale before Oprah Winfrey's gargantuan $315 million --but her gig is five times a week. By contrast Kate Gosselin must make ends meet at $250,000 while Jersey Shore's Snooki Pilizzi gets small change to the tune of $30,000.
For sitcom actors --heck for TV series actors anywhere --Charlie Sheen is tops, raking in $1.25 million an episode. You do the math: multiply by 22 to see what his yearly earning are.
Jeremy Piven of Entourage gets $350,000 but remember he's on cable as is 88-years young Betty White who draws $75,000 for Hot In Cincinnati.
Now what does this all mean for Canadian TV stars?
What the stats don't tell us are how much the talent gets in "back end" meaning DVD sales. One L.A. producer told me a boxed set of his series can make more money than the actual network license these days. That's what precipitated the last bunch of writers and actors strikes.
And it's why some of your vintage shows have still to hit DVD: there's endless behind the scenes bickering over who gets what and for how long.
But I'm guessing Laurie makes more for an episode of House than he ever made when he was TV's Bertie Wooster.
I guess it merely proves why so much of our home grown talent migrate to L.A. every year for pilot season.
And why Canadian TV can hardly compete in the big bucks league.
I'm not making excuses, just explaining why Canadian TV always has that beleagured look about it.

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