Male TV Stars Mostly Earn More

August 17, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Financial Services | Media & Entertainment | Men | Television | Women

Male TV stars mostly earn higher salaries than female TV stars, with a notable exception in the late night/talk syndication format, according to new data from TV Guide.

Male Stars Dominate Drama Pay
Looking at the top-paid drama stars on TV for the upcoming season, most of the highest salaries are earned by male actors. Hugh Laurie from “House” leads the pack at $400,000-plus per episode. While Mariska Hargitay ties her “Law & Order: SVU” co-star Christopher Meloni in second place with $395,000 per episode, the only other female earning a top salary among dramatic actors is Kyra Sedgwick from “The Closer,” who ties with Laurence Fishburne of “CSI” and Denis Leary of “Rescue Me” for seventh place with a salary of $350,000 per episode.


The next highest-paid female dramatic actress on TV is Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife,” who earns $175,000 per episode. In contrast, the next highest-paid male actor in a TV drama, Gary Sinise of “CSI: NY,” earns $275,000 per episode.

Reality Shows Tilt Toward Men
The pay scale for reality TV shows also tilts in favor of men. Ryan Seacrest, host of the hugely popular singing competition “American Idol,” earns $15 million per year. This is more than seven times the $2 million per year the next-highest-paid reality TV stars, “Talk Soup’s” Joel McHale and “America’s Got Talent’s” Piers Morgan, earn.


The highest-paid female reality TV star, Kate Gosselin of “Kate Plus 8,” earns $250,000 per episode, which puts her roughly even with McHale and Morgan on an annual basis. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of “Jersey Shore” fame earns $30,000 per episode.

Women Rule Talk Shows
One area where women hold a distinct salary advantage is late night/talk syndication. Oprah Winfrey is the highest paid talker with an annual salary of $315 million. Judge Judy Schiendlin of “Judge Judy” trails with an annual salary of $45 million.


The highest paid male talk show host, David Letterman of “The Late Show,” earns $28 million. His late night rival, “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, closely follows with a $25 million annual salary. Conan O’Brien, who briefly served as “Tonight Show” host earlier this year, will earn $10 million annually when “The Conan O’Brien Show” starts this November.

Women More Equal in Comedy, News
While the top-earning comedic and news stars are male, there is more parity among male and female talent in these two formats. “Two and a Half Men ” star Charlie Sheen dominates the comedy category with a salary of $1.25 million per episode, followed by his co-star Jon Cryer, who earns $550,000 per episode.


However, five of the next eight highest-paid comedic actors are female, including all four female leads of “Desperate Housewives,” who each make $400,000 per episode.

Among newspeople, “Today Show” host Matt Lauer earns $16 million-plus per year, closely followed by CBS anchor Katie Couric (Lauer’s former “Today” co-star), who earns $15 million annually. ABC anchor Diane Sawyer and “Today” host Meredith Viera also are among the top news earners, although of the top 13 highest-paid newspeople, nine are male.


Talkers Dominate Top 10 TV Personalities
Helping to explain their high salaries, talk show hosts were prevalent among the top 10 U.S. TV personalities in 2009, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

The top four personalities were all talk show hosts. Oprah Winfrey, the number four TV personality of 2008, assumed the top spot in 2009, benefiting from the publicity her announcement she will end her show in September 2011 received. Conservative Fox News host Glenn Beck made a strong first-time showing on the list at number two. Former and future “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, number one in 2008, dropped to number three in 2009. The poll took place before the controversy surrounding Leno’s return to the “Tonight Show” took place.

Ellen DeGeneres, host of an eponymous morning talk show and newest “American Idol” judge, dropped from number thee in 2008 to number four in 2009, tying with Hugh Laurie, star of the popular Fox medical drama “House.” Laurie was number two in 2008.

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