The Big Bang Theory Cast Salary Progression Since Season 1

Big Bang Theory Cast

The Big Bang Theory premiered on September 24, 2007, on the CBS network. The sitcom is often abbreviated as BBT or TBBT and revolves around five main characters who live in Pasadena, California. They are two Caltech physicists named Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter. These two characters are played by Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki respectively. Both of them are at the top of the list of highest paid actors in television today. Galecki earns $24 million annually and Parsons, who holds the absolute top position on the highest paid list earns $25.5 million annually. In fact, they both earn $1 million plus per episode!

About Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny

Sheldon and Leonard are both sharing an apartment in the sitcom. The other main characters either work with the two science geeks or live in their building. Those other characters include Penny played by Kaley Cuoco, who is the eye-candy of the show so-to-speak. She lives across the hall and is an aspiring actress and waitress. In a later season, she ends up becoming a pharmaceutical representative.

Neighbors & Co-Workers

The co-workers who rub elbows with Sheldon and Leonard include Raj Raj Koothrappali, who is an astrophysicist, and Howard Wolowitz, who is an aerospace engineer. They round out the main cast of five very funny characters. They are played by Kunal Nayyar, who also made the top paid list with $22 million annually, and Simon Helberg, another member of that exclusive list at $22.5 million, In fact, all of the top four spots on the list are filled by TBBT cast members!

Pricey 30-Second Spots

The sitcom is produced by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady with directing by Mark Cendrowski. And, with a string of guest stars popping in and out of every episode, added to the enormous talent of everyone in the main cast, the show has obviously become a major mainstream hit with audiences. If it hadn’t, how could they afford $1m per episode actors? According to an October article in Adweek first-run Big Bang Theory episodes bring in $326,260 for each 30-second spot during the 2013-14 season. That currently places them only second to the most expensive commercial slots, which of course are on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Renewal for Three More Years

In March 2014, the show was renewed for three more years, taking it through a 10th season, which premiered on September 19, 2016. In the same year as the renewal, the three main cast members banded together in “Friends” style to sign a package that would earn them in excess of $1m per episode. They were, of course, Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco. The pay package could earn them $100m over a three-year period.

New Deal Similar to “Friends”

An article in the Hollywood Reporter stated that it was similar to the Friends deal, except that Friends had a rating of 12 among 18 to 49-year-old adults, as well as a total of 25m viewers weekly in 2002. The Big Bang Theory was generating only half of the Friends rating and had only 20m weekly viewers 12 years later. But, those three cast members still managed to close a deal that’s more than tripling their $350,000 per episode salaries for the 8th, 9th, and 10th seasons.

Further Incentives

Under their new deal, they also negotiated some further incentives as well, namely a piece of the back end, which is every actor’s dream. Due to the fact that he has garnered three Emmys, Parsons received an increase in his back end piece from 0.25% to 1.25%. And, all three will be receiving producing packages. All-in-all, those new deals could have the potential for earning the three stars $100 million apiece over a three year period in the event that TBBT keeps performing well on CBS, as well as in syndication. Currently, it’s considered to be a Warner Bros. cash cow according to Peter Roth, who is the chief content officer and TV Group president.

New Deal for Helberg & Nayyar

Meanwhile, their co-stars Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg inked new deals granting them 80% of the leading trio’s salaries for the upcoming 8th season, escalating their salaries on par with the $1 per episode salaries for the three top earners for season 10. The two men will also be receiving the same back-end cut, namely the 1.25% up from the 0.25% of their past contracts.

What Does Lorre Think?

One important person is not the least bit surprised by the major pay hikes for all of the main actors in the series and that’s producer Chuck Lorre who is also co-creator of the show. He stated that he feels that actors should be making as much as they possibly can. He also said that he was thrilled to see that he had indeed done his job right when he sees all of those expensive German cars pulling up to the studio.

Salaries From the Beginning

So, going back to the beginning, none of the stars of The Big Bang Theory even made it to the list of top paid television stars in 2007. Here are their per episode salaries starting with Season 1:

Jim Parsons

  • Season 1: $ 60,000 per episode
  • Season 2-4: $250,000 per episode
  • Season 5-7: $350,000 per episode
  • Season 8-9: $1,200,000 per episode

Johnny Galecki

  • Season 1: $ 60,000 per episode
  • Season 2-4: $250,000 per episode
  • Season 5-7: $350,000 per episode
  • Season 8-9: $1,000,000 per episode

Kaley Cuoco

  • Season 1: $ 60,000 per episode
  • Season 2-4: $200,000 per episode
  • Season 5-7: $350,000 per episode
  • Season 8-9: $850,000 per episode

Kunal Nayyar

  • Season 1: $ 45,000 per episode
  • Season 2-4: $150,000 per episode
  • Season 5-7: $250,000 per episode
  • Season 8-9: $600,000 per episode

Simon Helberg

  • Season 1: $ 45,000 per episode
  • Season 2-4: $150,000 per episode
  • Season 5-7: $250,000 per episode
  • Season 8-9: $600,000 per episode

Mayim Bialik

  • Season 1: $ 45,000 per episode
  • Season 2-4: $150,000 per episode
  • Season 5-7: $180,000 per episode
  • Season 8-9: $500,000 per episode

Meanwhile, other cast members like Laura Spencer will just have to be satisfied with her $180k per episode salary, at least for now.


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