It’s a pretty well-known fact that the Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular shows on television these days. What is also pretty well known by the fans is that the cast and producers of the show have been in contract battles for a while now.
The deals for the program’s key cast members are up after this season. Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco are already TV’s highest-paid comedy actors. The trio reached the $1 million-per-episode mark (at 24 episodes per season) in their last three-year pact with Warner Bros. That deal came in 2014.
Two years later, “Big Bang” is still pulling in big audiences for CBS (the season 10 premiere grabbed 21.5 million viewers) and huge dollars in syndication. But that doesn’t mean the threesome will be able to command huge raises to sign on for more years. According to Fox News:
“Big Bang” has generated more than $1 billion in syndication revenue since its off-network debut in 2011. But in those lucrative sales to local TV stations and cable companies, TBS had clauses that capped the buyers’ length of commitment. That’s common practice even for “Big Bang”-size hits in order to protect purchasers from being on the hook for an open-ended deal at top dollar. The cap is believed to be set at eight seasons for the stations and 10 seasons for TBS.
By the end of season nine, “Big Bang” had gone up to 211 episodes. That’s enough for stations to run episodes as frequently as five times a week without repeating any for nearly 11 months. Warner Bros. already negotiated new deals with station buyers for the new episodes beyond season eight. Talks with TBS are coming up. As strong as “Big Bang” has been in syndication, TBS is unlikely to commit the same high fees to secure a few dozen later episodes.
Warner Bros. TV’s license agreement with CBS calls for the network to cover all production costs plus a slight premium. That doesn’t give Warner Bros. TV the biggest financial incentive to produce new episodes, although there are other considerations. For one, there are the bragging rights of having TV’s top-rated comedy. For another, there’s the studio’s relationship with “Big Bang” co-creator/exec producer Chuck Lorre.
CBS’ deal with Warner Bros. TV for the show is also up after this season. It would be a huge financial stretch for a rival net to offer more than $10 million an episode to persuade Warner Bros. to move the show.
All of which means that a new deal for Parsons, Galecki, and Cuoco will likely be similar in value to the last go-round. The spirit among the stars is so strong that the incentive to strike a new deal will be less about securing a huge raise and more about protecting the show’s legacy in what is expected to be its final seasons.
But even if their wages are stagnant, the math still looks pretty good for the cast of the Big Bang Theory.