When it comes to television, streaming services and premium channels (like HBO or FX) are increasingly taking up more and more of our attention, as regular networks tend to churn out safer, less experimental content for the masses. However, even as our attention gravitates toward this more hard-hitting, risqué television, there is still serious money in network shows. Networks offer one of the most sought-after things in any job in any industry: stability.
Comedies like The Big Bang Theory (CBS) or Modern Family (ABC) stay on the air with 24-episode long seasons for years and years, with a relatively healthy audience. This equals stable advertisers, and therefore some pretty sweet paychecks. These two TV shows, along with other tried and tested formulas like Law & Order or NCIS tend to have a cast of starring actors with the highest salaries: not only do these actors have the leverage to ask for more money, but the TV networks feel secure enough to sign off on the multi-million dollar packages.
Plus, in this day and age, most of these mega-stars have more than one source of income. If you’re a truly savvy celebrity, you’ll parlay the sizable platform and audience you’ve acquired from starring in a TV network show and score licensing deals or endorsements, or even start your own company.
This list isn’t without its shortcomings, though. You’ll notice that while there are plenty of women on here, their combined earnings come in at around $156.5 million, while the combined earnings of the men comes in at $185 million. TV actresses like Sofia Vergara, Kaley Cuoco, and Julie Bowen have healthy paychecks and earn as much as their counterparts, but that says more about the power they wield in their specific positions than about the state of women in the industry—not to mention that there are just five actors of color on this list.
The numbers seen in this list are based on the period from June 2016 to June 2017. Forbes takes a number of factors into consideration to come up with these numbers: salary estimates from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo, and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. Note that these figures are pre-tax, and any fees for agents, managers, lawyers, or anything else have not been deducted.
Without further ado, here are the highest paid TV actors.