For TV's biggest stars, key roles on successful shows mean huge paychecks — but the payoff doesn't stop there. When shows are syndicated, redistributed, released on DVD, purchased by a streaming service or otherwise used beyond the airing the actors were originally paid for, those actors get residual checks (sometimes called royalties).
So, do actors get paid for reruns? According to SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors, some do and some don't. For principal performers, royalties can lead to long-term payoffs that trump the original salary. Background actors, on the other hand, won't be getting any residual checks in the mail. Click through to find out how much some of your favorite TV stars get paid for reruns and more.
"Friends" ran for 10 seasons between 1994 and 2004. The show made stars out of Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow and, of course, Jennifer Aniston — one of the richest actresses of all time.
The show's success still pays dividends for the cast. In 2015, USA Today reported that Warner Bros. earns $1 billion a year from "Friends." Of that amount, 2 percent — or $20 million — goes to each of the stars every single year.
One of the most beloved and successful sitcoms of all time, "Seinfeld" — the show about nothing — ran for nine seasons ending in 1998. The Independent reported that by 2013, "Seinfeld reruns had earned $3.1 billion." In 2015, Today reported that Hulu purchased all 180 episodes and cited other publications that estimated the deal to be worth as much as $1 million per episode.
As far as payouts to the cast, Jerry Seinfeld — who actually had one of the highest net worths in 2016 — and co-creator Larry David take the lion's share of royalties because co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander don't own a stake in the show, according to Today.
‘Gilligan’s Island’ Royalties
Although it's one of history's most familiar sitcoms, "Gilligan's Island" ran for only three seasons, the first of which was filmed in black and white. Although you could still watch the marooned castaways in reruns until recently, one of the show's stars claims royalties never paid off.
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Dawn Wells, who played the iconic Mary Ann, told Forbes in 2016 that a "misconception is that we must be wealthy, rolling in the dough, because we got residuals. We didn’t really get a dime." However, she continued to say that "Sherwood Schwartz, our producer, reportedly made $90 million on the reruns alone!"
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Royalties
Ray Romano is one of the richest Emmy Award winners of all time. And in 2013, he took the No. 94 position on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list. While the publication mentioned Romano's big-screen successes like his character voice work in the "Ice Age" franchise, Forbes wrote that Romano's place on the list was largely attributed to "the bulk of his annual earnings coming from syndication of the long-running CBS sitcom."
Forbes was referring to "Everybody Loves Raymond," which ran for nine seasons ending in 2005 and continues in reruns on TV Land. In 2015, Forbes reported that Romano earned $15 million from "Everybody Loves Raymond."
‘I Love Lucy’ Royalties
60 years after the show went off the air in 1957, "I Love Lucy" reruns of the groundbreaking sitcom can still be seen on CBS online and the Hallmark Channel — and it continues to pay the salaries of TV executives.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves boasted to a gathering of bankers that "I Love Lucy" continued to pull in $20 million a year. Lucille Ball died in 1989.
‘The Brady Bunch’ Royalties
Generations of children grew up with "The Brady Bunch," and you can watch reruns on CBS online. The show, which ran from 1969 to 1974, is among the most successful in history — but it didn't make its stars rich, according to one cast member.
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Eve Plumb, who played Jan Brady, told OK! Magazine in 2011 that the "biggest misconception is that we’re all rich from it, but we are not. We have not been paid for reruns of the show for many, many years. We are not making money off of it at all."
In 2005, the Chicago Tribune reported that a controversy erupted in Hollywood. "Frasier," originally a "Cheers" spinoff, had achieved smashing success that netted Paramount $1.5 billion. In an effort to avoid paying royalties and agency fees, however, the paper alleged that Paramount attempted a series of shady legal maneuverings to make it appear that the show actually lost money. The trick apparently didn't work.
In an interview the previous year with John Mahoney, who played Martin Crane, the Chicago Tribune stated in reference to his salary and syndication royalties that "there's enough in the bank to ensure he never has to work again on something he'd rather not do." You can catch “Frasier” reruns on the Hallmark Channel.
‘The Cosby Show’ Royalties
One of the most beloved shows of all time, "The Cosby Show" was poised to follow "I Love Lucy" and "The Brady Bunch" into decades of syndication and lifelong royalties checks for the cast. That all changed in 2014, when TV Land pulled the show and removed all references to it from its website as an avalanche of sexual assault accusations piled up against the show's namesake star, Bill Cosby.
Two years later, some cast members were already feeling the financial pain of the checks that were no longer coming in. In 2016, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played Theo Huxtable, said in an interview with The Real that "since the show was taken off the air, it's literally taking money out of my pocket."
‘Home Improvement’ Royalties
"Home Improvement" enjoyed an eight-year run that ended in 1999. In 2016, co-star Richard Karn told Australian publication News.com.au, "Every time the show gets bought around the world ... you get a little percentage of that." He went on to say, "You don’t want to have to live on that, but it’s a nice kind of annuity.”
‘Two and a Half Men’ Royalties
In 2011, Charlie Sheen — due to his salacious personal problems — was embroiled in a nasty and very public dispute with CBS that would eventually lead to him being fired from "Two and a Half Men." The show had entered syndication three years earlier and enjoyed consistent status as the highest-rated scripted comedy.
At the time, Fox News speculated that Sheen would go on to earn $100 million more from the show on royalties alone. In 2016, however, the Associated Press reported that Sheen sold his profit participation rights for $27 million.
‘The Simpsons’ Royalties
Before "The Simpsons" was a $13 billion global franchise, it was an obscure animated segment that appeared on "The Tracey Ullman Show." Although Ullman lost a 1992 lawsuit in which she sought merchandising fees, the comedienne still cashes in. During a recent interview with Andy Cohen, Ullman said she still receives residuals from "The Simpsons" nearly 30 years after she created the central characters. While winking, she sarcastically replied, "Yes, I hear from them four times a year." When asked if her cut was significant, she replied, "Yeah, it's not bad."
Rapper 50 Cent can't reliably make the same claim. In 2017, the Daily Mail reported that the bankrupt musician/actor received a check from a cameo he made on "The Simpsons" for $16.68.