How Much Money TV Stars Really Earn from Reruns
The beauty of television is that almost anything you watch once will eventually be available to watch again and again, particularly in this modern entertainment streaming era. In fact, some shows hit streaming and on-demand services almost immediately after the original episode airs. Whether you're watching a made-for-TV movie or the latest and greatest TV series, the program will more than likely air again on the same network or appear on some type of streaming service in the future.
The same thing is true for older shows. As services look for new content to satisfy millions of viewers, they often turn to former classics and add thousands of reruns to their viewing catalogs. For some actors, the money they make from these reruns can be almost as lucrative — and certainly longer lasting — than their original paychecks. For others — well, you have to see it to believe it. Let’s take a look!
The Brady Bunch Cast - $0
It's hard to believe that The Brady Bunch was only on the air for five seasons, with the final season concluding in March of 1974. It's such an iconic series, with pop culture staples continuing to reference the show more than four decades later. So, the stars have to make a fortune, right?
The Honeymooners Cast - $0
The Honeymooners is another show that has a lasting legacy that far surpasses its minor run. The 1950’s sitcom had a single 39-episode season that paid its cast around $70,000 each per episode. Praised for its honest depiction of blue-collar American living, the series continues to entertain viewers well into the 21st century.
The Punky Brewster Cast - $2
Residuals usually operate in a very specific way. It's not a random scale; it's often more like a fixed rate with fixed decreases over time. For this method, each rerun results in a smaller paycheck for each star. Take Soleil Moon Frye and the rest of the Punky Brewster cast, for example.
Drake (Degrassi) - $8
It can be pretty hard to get an actor to open up about their finances, especially if there's any reason to think they could be struggling in any way. Fortunately, social media has allowed plenty of celebrities to become a lot more open about their personal lives than ever before.
Bob Saget (Full House) - $2,000
While his character presents himself as a caring, mild-mannered, respectful family man, Bob Saget's real life personality is far from it. A vulgar stand-up comedian who has taken pride in his family-friendly sitcom Full House despite this, Saget didn't shy away from questions about his residuals from the show.
The Will & Grace Cast - $25,000
There are several examples of the countless syndicated TV sitcoms that received a second life in the late 2010s. NBC's groundbreaking comedy Will & Grace is one of them, enjoying a new surge of popularity that compares to the numbers it was earning in its original run.
David Caruso (CSI: Miami) - $100,000
A spinoff of CBS's massively successful police procedural CSI, CSI: Miami was more popular with some fans than the original show itself. Starring David Caruso as the one-liner-reciting head of a team of crime scene investigators, the hour-long drama has proven to have an amazing shelf life.
The Law & Order Cast - $200,000
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has actually surpassed its predecessors significant run. At more than 20 seasons, the spinoff show has officially lasted many years longer than the original show. However, Law & Order still airs reruns regularly, and many viewers prefer it to SVU.
The Family Guy Cast - $250,000
With the number of cartoons Seth MacFarlane has on TV at any given time and how much money some TV stars make for reruns, it would be fair to assume MacFarlane makes millions in royalties for his work. For whatever reason, even though Family Guy is the second-longest-running cartoon in history, big residuals for the actors aren’t part of the package.
Garcelle Beauvais (The Jamie Foxx Show) - $700,000
He might be an Oscar winner now, but Jamie Foxx hasn't always been so critically acclaimed. Between 1996 and 2001, the now-A-lister starred as the lead on The WB's (now The CW) The Jamie Foxx Show. While semi-autobiographical in nature, no plot line on the show could have predicted his massive success.
Roseanne Barr (Roseanne) - $1 Million
Roseanne creator Roseanne Barr recently got herself into some serious trouble for some controversial comments on a whole slew of hot-button issues. Before that, her sitcom Roseanne earned her and ABC a whole stack of dough.
Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) - $1 Million
When M*A*S*H, the 1970’s television adaptation of the Robert Altman movie of the same name, aired its final episode, it was nothing short of a nationwide event. Following the members of an Army hospital during the Korean war, the show satirized the war in a way that was quite revolutionary.
Betty White (The Golden Girls) - $3 Million
Thanks to an appearance in the 2009 romantic comedy The Proposal, Betty White enjoyed something of a renaissance in popularity throughout the early part of the 2010s. She seems to be taking it easy again, but that’s okay. Working doesn't really matter to her bank account, with reruns of The Golden Girls padding things out nicely.
David Hasselhoff (Baywatch) - $4 Million
While you might be tempted to think the iconic imagery and the stereotypical "running in slow motion on the beach" sequences might have outlived the series itself, the infamous TV series Baywatch actually continues to rake in the rerun dollars nearly two decades later. In fact, the show may seem straight out of the ‘70s, but it was actually an all-out 90s thing, and it has a lot going for it in terms of summer nostalgia.
Ted Danson (Cheers) - $5 Million
Decades before the era of Peak TV existed, the ‘80s were a paradise for countless iconic sitcoms that continue to be revered to this day. One of the most enduring of the bunch was the NBC sitcom Cheers. Decades later, millions of fans are still singing its praises and tuning in for some streaming.
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy) - $7.5 Million
On air for just six seasons, I Love Lucy created a lasting impact that far exceeded its middling run. The show helped the nation — possibly even the world — see just how popular TV shows could be.
Jaleel White (Family Matters) - $10 Million
Surprisingly, even shows that plenty of people are quick to criticize at the time can go on to build an impressive audience and make quite a hefty sum. Apparently, even hate-watching can result in a paycheck for stars. This is what happened with shows like Family Matters.
The Simpsons Cast - $10 Million
Originally created as a segment on the popular variety series The Tracey Ullman Show, the long-running primetime cartoon The Simpsons continues to be a relevant and popular series more than 30 years after its initial debut.
Ed O'Neill (Married... with Children) - $10 Million
Today's younger audiences will definitely know Ed O'Neill more for his run on Modern Family than for his earlier role in Married... with Children throughout the late 80s and most of the 90s. Don’t misinterpret that to mean the show wasn't a hit, however.
Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) - $10 Million
An actor's humble beginnings can seem especially small in the grand scheme of things, especially when they go on to do bigger (and better) things on down the line. This is true of Doogie Howser star Neil Patrick Harris, who grew up to make a fortune on How I Met Your Mother. (Imagine those residuals!)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) - $10 Million
Despite wrapping up its 12-season tenure less than a year ago, The Big Bang Theory has already been airing reruns for years now. Another one of Chuck Lorre's instant classics, the show didn't waste a single second putting the rights to replay old episodes up for sale.
The Friends Cast - $10 Million
As one of the most notable and beloved television shows of all time, Friends pays out some fat royalty checks to its main cast members every year. Considering the show was NBC’s biggest hit of all time, the news shouldn’t exactly be shocking to fans.
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) - $13 Million
Unbeknownst to the new generation of viewers, Frasier is a spinoff of the equally popular sitcom Cheers. Starring Kelsey Grammer as the titular Dr. Frasier Crane, the show ran for 11 years. Add that to the 11 years Grammer spent on Cheers, and that means the actor has 22 years' worth of royalties to cash in on.
Tim Allen (Home Improvement) - $18 Million
Largely credited with launching Tim Allen into the pop culture stratosphere back in the 1990s, the ABC sitcom Home Improvement starred the comedian as the charming host of a do-it-yourself-style home renovation program on TV. The show ran for eight seasons and had millions of viewers.
Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) - $18 Million
From his scene-stealing role in Martin Scorsese's Netflix collaboration, The Irishman, to his work throughout the past decade on the Ice Age films, actor and comedian Ray Romano certainly knows how to make himself loved by audiences of all ages. Still, no one will ever forget the sitcom that first launched him to fame.
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men) - $27 Million
Back in 2011, Two and a Half Men — one of several Chuck Lorre sitcoms on CBS at the time — was a very popular program on the network. Starring 1980’s John Hughes movie icons Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer, the sitcom was hilarious, but it became the subject of a very ugly public dispute.
Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) - $40 Million
Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston aside, it's unlikely you'll see a single cast member of FOX's former hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle show up in any other project as of late. This isn't necessarily a bad sign for the stars. The show was so popular that the entire main cast doesn’t have to work and can stay retired if they want.
Bob Denver (Gilligan's Island) - $100 Million
As the titular star of the unforgettable desert island sitcom Gilligan's Island, why wouldn't Bob Denver make a killing on residuals? After all, the show still airs on plenty of channels, even though its three-season run wrapped up way back in 1967.
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (Seinfeld) - $110 Million
NBC's other sitcom titan, the beloved Jerry Seinfeld vehicle Seinfeld, is often regarded as a "show about nothing." However, as both writer, star and producer, the titular comedian's royalty checks are certainly ... something.
SpongeBob SquarePants - $8 Billion
Strangely, information seems to be scarce about how much money each voice actor behind Nickelodeon's most iconic cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants earns. However, there's more than enough information out there about the total gross income of the character himself.