'Friends' get $40m each for another 24 episodes

Fans of the long-running American comedy sitcom Friends could relax yesterday after news that an 11th-hour deal had been struck between the NBC network and the cast to continue with the show for two more seasons.

Nobody was happier than the cast members. By adopting an en masse negotiating technique, they landed contracts worth an astonishing $750,000 each for every new episode, more even than Jerry Seinfeld was paid at the end of his comedy reign on NBC two years ago.

With an improved cut of lucrative syndication revenues as well, the package promises the stars about $40m each for putting together just 24 half-hour episodes over the next two years.

NBC did the deal to avoid calamity yesterday when all three main US networks unveiled their programming line-ups for the autumn. Friends, now close to completing its sixth season in the US, is still the number one comedy programme in America and an anchor to the NBC schedule.

The network reportedly tried to keep salaries down to $600,000 an episode. That was the amount paid to all three main stars of Seinfeld in its last season two years ago. It also threatened also to write out two or three of the characters to save money.

NBC and Warner Brothers TV, which makes the programme, had to bow to the negotiating solidarity of the cast. Sticking together throughout, they demanded that the network take all of them for the new seasons or none of them.

When the actors first started on the programme, their per-episode fee was $40,000. Even with their new deal, the six are not quite breaking records. In their final episodes of another huge hit in America, Mad About You, the stars Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt were drawing $1m each - the sum the Friends stars were believed to have sought.

Friends, which follows the loves and lives of six no-longer-so-young New York denizens, also brings important revenue to NBC for its sales in foreign markets. Countries where it has caught on include Britain. Two seasons ago, the cast travelled amid great fanfare to London to tape an episode.

But its one-time domination of the prime-time viewership stakes has been eclipsed in the US by a new king. Modelled on the British version, it is the quiz show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, now running four nights a week on ABC.

Rumours in Hollywood implied at least two of the Friends cast - Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer - were less anxious to continue on the sitcom than their peers. Ms Kudrow, in particular, is nurturing a film career.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Account Executive

Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: One of the UK’s largest and most s...

Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

£Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

Guru Careers: Digital Designer / Interactive Designer

£ Highly Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Digital Designer / Interactive Des...

Guru Careers: Purchasing Co-ordinator / Purchasing Administrator

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Purchasing Co-ordinator / Administrator is ne...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence