The “Friends” reunion paid the six actors up to 5 million US dollars each. But that’s only a fraction of what they’ve made in 27 years.
In the opening credits of Friends, the show’s six co-stars frolic in a fountain while the show’s theme song laments the life of a New Yorker in his twenties whose “job is a joke, you’re broke, the DOA of your love life”
27 years on from the sitcom’s debut, its stars – and creators – are still a long way from broke.
The eagerly awaited Friends meeting, which aired on HBO Max on Thursday, paid Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, and Ross up to $ 5 million apiece, according to a knowledgeable source. Not bad for a night’s work, but a pittance compared to what they did in the sitcom’s nearly three decades running.
The hugely popular television comedy almost generated $ 1.4 billion in profit since Friends Broadcast debut in 1994, according to Forbes Estimates. From that, Forbes estimates that the six Friends Stars received a pre-tax profit of nearly $ 816 million, or about $ 136 million each.
The show’s creators David Crane and Marta Kaufman’s creative team and co-executive producer Kevin Bright shared pre-cash earnings of at least $ 550 million – a figure insiders say is conservative.
When it aired on NBC from 1994 to 2004, Friends was an anchor of the station’s “Must-See TV” on Thursday evenings alongside shows like Seinfeld, crazy about you, will and grace and HE. Wedged between Crazy about you and His field, Friends alone attracted an average of 25 million nighttime viewers.
But the money didn’t flow in straight away. Warner Bros. Television licensed the 30-minute comedy to NBC; For the first four years, the production company actually lost money on the show, betting it would pay off later when the syndication began.
By the time Friends Entering its fifth season, NBC was so anxious to keep the sitcom on its Thursday night lineup that it agreed to pay the production costs. During its 10-year airtime, those overheads included an estimated $ 70 million in producer fees for Bright-Kauffman-Crane and nearly $ 100 million for the Stars, whose salaries rose from a modest $ 22,500 per episode in Season 1 to Season 1 Million dollar show rates rose over the past two years, making Aniston, Cox, and Kudrow the highest-paid actresses of the time.
The real payoff started when the show entered syndication. With nearly 100 episodes in the first four years, Warner Bros. had enough shows to start selling reruns to local broadcasters, cable networks and channels outside the US, and eventually streaming services in a series of deals that Forbes Estimates were around $ 4.8 billion for the production company. This does not include revenue from DVD sales.
The creators and performers still share the spoils of the reruns. After deducting the costs for sales, marketing and related administrative costs, Forbes estimates syndication proceeds of $ 260 million for the cast and at least $ 475 million for Bright-Kauffman-Crane, based on US data from S&P Global and discussions with lawyers, agents and executives related to the deal.
Warner Bros. Television and publicists for the show’s stars and creators declined to comment on the story.
After their lucrative paydays, the show’s six stars continue to work on television and in film. Aniston had, without a doubt, the greatest financial hit to appear on Forbes’ list of Highest Paid Actresses over the years. In 2017, Forbes estimated her net worth at $ 200 million – a number that included income from friends and other acting jobs, as well as modeling and endorsements.
Most recently, Aniston received a payday of $ 1 million per episode (and an Emmy nomination) for her role as news anchor Alex Levy in the 2019 Apple TV + drama The morning show.