First the good news the wage gap between women and men on TV is almost non-existent! Hooray! But the wage gap between stars and supporting cast is growing at a fast pace.
There has always been a gap between supporting players and main cast, but with the new players in town (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc), competition has raised the stakes. Thanks to a survey conducted by ‘Variety’, the salary of many TV actors have been revealed. They also published an interesting article on the gap between salaries.
The list is not complete, because many famous actors and hosts are not making the cut which seems to be weird for people like Simon Helberg (“The Big Bang Theory”) or Matthew Perry (“The Odd Couple”). It is very interesting to see how much money stars are earning on TV and how different it is from let say ten years before. A first season show would never spend so much money on TV actors and still if you look at the money Emma Stone, Drew Barrymore or Kiefer Sutherland are making it’s astonishing. This explains why A-listers have no problems coming to TV (this and the great content).
Reality/hosts and News shows also offers amazing deals for their talent like you see in the article but they don’t have the competition with the streaming services yet!
The bar has been raised since Netflix and Amazon decided to invested in content. They needed to convince famous actors to join their team which costed a lot of money. This led to a rush for talent. The main networks needed to compete and offered actors the same kind of salaries. And of course with Netflix or Amazon you don’t have backend deal’s or bonuses because of viewership but you have creative freedom and higher budgets which is also very interesting for many. Many creative people are lured to the streaming services just because they can do whatever they want (even though rumours are saying this is changing and Netflix is starting to become a ‘normal’ network and also intervene with the creative side).
Network channels like CBS or ABC can offer backend deals and syndication which can lead to even higher salaries but the difference is that you are never sure that your show will stay on because of the viewership and a comfortable position at a streaming service seems that much more appealing.
The big problem is now the gap between stars who are making so much money and the other people of the cast. Networks have to find new ways to complete their budgets and sometimes they just book actors as ‘guest’ for a whole season which lead them to make much less than people who are full members of the cast but have as many lines as the guest actors. Also new shows don’t necessarily have that many episodes anymore which is fine for the big players because they have more time to film a movie in between but for the supporting cast this means less money because they are paid by the episodes and the difference between 15 or 22 episodes is huge if you earn 10.000 an episode.
As long as streaming services are prepared to pay a fortune for their talents networks are going to have to find new ways to beat the competition but it’s clear that this can’t go forever. At one point they will all hit a celling and how is the industry going to react then?