Cash from syndication rights
February 2, 2005 9:01 AM   Subscribe

TelevisionSyndicationFilter - According to the entry on Wikipedia, television syndication is "where the real money is" when it comes to producing TV shows (particularly, off network syndication). I'm curious to know how much money an actor like Dave Coulier (Uncle Joey, Full House) makes from syndication rights. Any guesses or insight? [justatinybitmoreinside]

I realize coming up with an actual number would require knowledge of how the actors are contracted to work.. and yada yada.. I'm just looking to come up with an estimate.

Say Uncle Joey makes $100 each time an episode airs. (Is that reasonable? outrageous?) If episodes air 3 times a day, he's pocketing $300 a day for work he did years ago. That's an easy 100K.
posted by paulychamp to Work & Money (10 answers total)
For what it's worth.. this popped into my head when I was looking at Coulier's website (yea.. don't ask.) when a friend told me that A&E bought rights to syndicate The Sopranos for 2.5 million per episode.
posted by paulychamp at 9:11 AM on February 2, 2005

I think that it depends on the actors' contracts.

IIRC, this was the cause of the big bust-up between the cast of Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld was on a percentage of syndication profits, whereas the other cast members were on standard contracts. As a result, Jerry became a billionaire, and the others didn't. This, human nature being what it is, led to some bitterness.

That's what caused the long delay in releasing the Seinfeld DVDs. This time, the other cast members held out for a percentage of the distribution profits.
posted by veedubya at 10:14 AM on February 2, 2005

The payments actors receive from syndication are called residuals, and they are unrelated to the sale of syndication rights. Rights are sold by the show's producers (which was why Jerry made bank on Senfeld; he was a producer, the others weren't), while residuals are determined by the actor's contract. Base residual rates are determined by the SAG and AFTRA unions, so everybody gets something, but of course this is one of the parts of the contract that gets renegotiated when a show turns out to be a hit (as in the many contract negotiations with the cast of Friends).

As for amounts, I think it's closer to pennies per broadcast than dollars. Otherwise it would be prohibitively expensive for a station to run a show with a large cast like Full House as many times a day as they do. Still, that can add up to a nice income for an actor, considering the number of stations that will pick up a successful show.
posted by jjg at 10:51 AM on February 2, 2005

Not to derail, but...

Was (is?) there a lot of animosity between Seinfeld cast members? I never thought the end of Seinfeld was due to anything like that...
posted by achmorrison at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2005

Wasn't there an episode of Seinfeld were Jerry gets thousands of one penny residual checks for some work he'd long forgotten about? He ends up with cramps from endorsing all the checks? Maybe there's a grain of truth supporting this gag which would suggest that residuals are pennies per episode. Is it worthless fiction-based evidence or hip meta-evidence?
posted by stuart_s at 11:20 AM on February 2, 2005

Hah, I believe there was! I vote for hip meta-evidence!
Thanks for the answers so far guys.
posted by paulychamp at 11:28 AM on February 2, 2005

(The episode in question: The Checks)
posted by AmaAyeRrsOonN at 11:45 AM on February 2, 2005

It's much less than we think--over the summer i met a current TV mom (the show is still airing, and also in reruns) and i asked her--it really is not enough to live on, altho it's better than it was in the past (see Gilligan's Island folks, and other 60s-70s sitcom people, who only got paid for the first 6 airings or something like that)
posted by amberglow at 12:09 PM on February 2, 2005

Unless the actor has a deal giving him/her a percentage of the Net Profits (or something similar) the only payment s/he gets for repeats are residuals under the Screen Actors Guild or AFTRA contracts. The amount of residuals are different depending if the repeats are on broadcast TV , cable or DVD/Video. Roughly speaking, an actor gets 40-50% of "minimum" for the first rerun, and the percentage drops off with each subsequent rerun to a base of 5% of minimum for the 20th and subsequent broadcast reruns, which would be about $75 per repeat. The residuals are lower for shows produced in the more distant past, because minimums were less then. For a hit sitcom that is now in syndication airing 6 times per week, 50 weeks per year, an actor is collecting maybe as much as $20,000 per year in residuals. The "big money" in syndication is for the show's distributor and for the talent with an interest in the net profits.
posted by Carsey at 3:29 PM on February 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

In case anyone is still reading: This was the true genious of Desi Arnaz (husband of Lucille Ball, aka Lucy). They OWNED the show "I Love Lucy". They started making it when there were few TV stations. As each new station came to be, they sold the show to them.

Then they kept selling the show for decades. I would love to hear how much Lucy was worth when she passed! The Goddess of comedy surely must have had one heavy purse!
posted by Goofyy at 4:26 AM on February 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

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