Ever since it first aired on NBC back in September of 1994, Friends has been one of most popular sitcom phenomenons in television history, the likes of which are rarely seen in pop culture. The reason why it sparked $100 million deals from Netflix is because Friends is not simply adored, but it has sparked downright obsessions. Therefore, it should come as little surprise to know that the cast members of Friends have all become extremely rich thanks to their work on the famous show. Not just during the ten seasons, but particularly when collecting royalties.
Friends' six central stars – Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer – continued renegotiating their contracts and made sure they were all healthily compensated on the back-end of the production, so fans could easily assume that these actors were making out like bandits by the end of Friends' run, and still to this day, considering all the syndication value. Based on information gleaned through the years, let's try to figure out how much the Friends cast have made from royalties off the popular NBC sitcom. (While this information is usually pretty speculative for other series, Friends' contract details have spread fairly widely throughout the media.)
How Much Did The Cast Of Friends Make While It Was On The Air?
During the show's first season, the Friends cast members were reportedly each paid $22,500 per episode. But as the second season came into being, it seems that there were some discrepancies. Some actors, for instance, were compensated around $20,000 per episode, while other cast members gained $40,000. While these differences reportedly sparked some ill-will within the cast, they decided to band together and enter collective negotiations for the third season, assuring that each cast member received equal compensation. This idea went against Warner Bros.' history of making individual deals. Nevertheless, it worked.
Season 3 brought in big paydays, with each cast member reportedly paid $75,000 per episode, which went up to $85,000 an ep. in Season 4. The numbers started jumping even higher here, with the stars earning $100,000 per ep in Season 5, $125,000 per episode in Season 6, and $750,000 in Seasons 7 and 8.
When it came time for the final two seasons, though, that's when the contracts went into outer space. Each actor negotiated an astounding $1 million-per-episode deal, which made Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, and Courteney Cox the highest-paid actresses on TV at the time. There aren't many actors who get paid a million bucks to do a sitcom, and it even took The Big Bang Theory stars a while to get there.
How Much Does The Cast Of Friends Make From Reruns?
Suffice to say, Friends is one of the most lucrative syndicated shows out there, with 236 episodes ready for blocks of TV repeats. As such, the ceiling for royalties from those deals is infinitely high, especially with the solid back-end deals that were worked out with the actors' contracts. As it was reported in the past by USA Today, each actor within the Friends ensemble is estimated to make $19-$20 million a year from royalties off the show. That's a whole lot of moolah!
As it turns out, Friends itself makes an estimated $1 billion(!) a year for Warner Bros. through various deals and merchandising. The stars have been reported to earn around two percent of that syndication income, which may not sound like much, but clearly defies the odds. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who'd complain about receiving $20 million checks for work that was completed over a decade ago.
Ultimately, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc have certainly been compensated very, very well for their work on Friends. And there's a good chance they will continue to make a lot of money off the popular NBC show in the future when it hits the in-development streaming service. HBO Max, which is set to go live in early 2020.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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