Prime-Time Salary Wars

Even with signed contracts on file, some actors will wheel and deal and even call in sick to force a studio or network to renegotiate. It’s a technique that’s commonplace in the world of Hollywood actors. Is it greed, or are actors just making sure they get their fare share? Take, for example, the case of the cast of the NBC sitcom Friends, where profits can get as high as $1 billion. Back in 2000, NBC executive Garth Ancier found himself in a high-stakes renegotiation with Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. All of the show’s stars were asking for $1,050,000 per episode each, while the network thought $700,000 per episode was an appropriate increase. Ancier said he needed a way to prove to the cast that NBC was serious about walking away from the biggest hit on their prime-time schedule, so he asked the promotions department to create a new promo. This one said: “You’ve loved them for 7 years. See how it all ends with the series finale of Friends this Thursday at 8 p.m.” The threat worked. The cast came back to the negotiating table and accepted $700,000. However, two years later, they got the $1 million an episode they originally wanted.