The Biggest Earners on TV & Radio

  • Big Stakes, Big Paycheck

    Obviously, if we are judging media personalities by a combination of overall recognition and annual “take-home pay” (to borrow Suze Orman’s terminology!), there is no question that Oprah Winfrey tops the list. This is something I Know, For Sure. But let’s not be that predictable. Of course, Ms. Winfrey’s the first slide, but then the rest of the media fat cats are presented here in no particular order of importance or wealth. After all, one fan’s favorite media star could be another viewer’s least favorite. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Oprah Winfrey
  • Oprah Winfrey

    We put in a request to interview Ms. Winfrey recently, and were told by one of her PR handlers at Harpo Productions we may have a shot at that about a year from now when her own network launches. That’s a long time to wait. Too long. Ostensibly the world’s most recognized television personality, she brings in an estimated $385 million per year, which Modern Minority breaks down in the following way: “$1.05 million per day OR $43,000 per hour OR $732 per minute. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of dough.” Yes, it most definitely is: at that rate, she can max out her annual 401k contribution in fewer than 23 minutes. By the way, billionaire or not, we hope she received combat pay for interviewing Sarah Palin recently. Photo Credit: Oprah.com
    Conan O’Brien
  • Conan O’Brien

    Don’t feel too sad for Conan. He reportedly received around $40,000,000 in his recent exit agreement with NBC, forcing him to leave the network’s “Tonight Show.” At least $8 million of that is going to his staff, but still that’s a nice chunk of goodbye money. Not surprisingly, there are some strings attached. His agreement with the network “bars O’Brien from bad-mouthing his former NBC bosses” and he won’t be able to host any other TV shows until September, at the earliest. Photo Credit: Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien
    Jay Leno
  • Jay Leno

    Leno makes an estimated $32 million per year from his show. That should hold him over, at least until the CoCo horde storms his massive car garage with pitchforks in hand, demanding justice for what he hath wrought. And as if that weren’t enough… “Leno usually does a stand-up act at a Los Angeles comedy club on Sunday evenings,” notes an article in The Globe and Mail. “He tests out jokes that might appear later on his TV show. However, the Leno legend is that he takes the door money and that’s his spending money for the week. Guy’s a multimillionaire but, apparently, has this fear of going broke.” Photo Credit: The Jay Leno Show
    Jay-Z
  • Jay-Z

    Though Forbes estimates his current net worth to be $150 million, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z is adding to the pile. He has signed a “$150 million, 10-year recording, touring and merchandising deal with concert promoter Live Nation.” This is in addition to all of his other income streams from previous records and other production and endorsement deals. Photo Credit: Jay-Z.com
    David Letterman
  • David Letterman

    CBS late-night talk show host David Letterman reportedly makes around $30 million per year or so, exact amounts published online seem to vary, but we do know his current contract is good through the 2011-2012 season. After that we hear that Jay Leno has promised to hand over his "Tonight Show" to him. (Except not really.) Photo Credit: Late Show With David Letterman
    J.K. Rowling
  • J.K. Rowling

    J.K. Rowling’s net worth is estimated to be at least $798 million and her Harry Potter series of books have sold more than 375 million copies globally. She’s also making money from the movies, book spin offs and tons of other wizard and Hogwarts related merchandising. Photo Credit: Sjhill/Wikimedia
    Ellen DeGeneres
  • Ellen DeGeneres

    This daytime talk show reigning champion, aside from Oprah, has a down to earth personality and disarming approach to interviewing her guests—but a decidedly elitist salary, estimated to be around $15,000,000 per year. Now she’s on American Idol too, and her take home on that is estimated at between $5 and $7 million. Good for her. Photo Credit: The Ellen Degeneres Show
    Simon Cowell
  • Simon Cowell

    This American Idol judge makes killer bank shooting down the dreams of starry-eyed talentless hacks. And we love him for it. As reported by The Guardian (UK), “Simon Cowell has been named the highest paid man on primetime television in the US, with estimated earnings of $75m (£45m) last year. Cowell collected the haul for his work as a judge on the talent show American Idol and as the creator of America's Got Talent.” Though he’s leaving Idol after this year, fear not. He’s launching an American version of his hit British show call the X-Factor. The format will be pretty much the same as Idol, but this time he’ll own half of the business. The other half belongs to Sony (Stock Quote: SNE). Photo Credit: AmericanIdol.com
    Donald Trump
  • Donald Trump

    Donald Trump’s public image is built on the idea that he makes a lot of money. But is it really true? Well, turns out it is in fact true. He is loaded. He pulls in more than $50 million per year from his duties on the TV show The Apprentice alone, he’s the author of more than 15 books and Forbes puts his net worth at $1.6 billion. We interviewed Mr. Trump recently, and he didn’t plug his successful show even once. Humility! Photo Credit: Trump Organization
    Ryan Seacrest
  • Ryan Seacrest

    American Idol host Ryan Seacrest brings in more than $38 million per year. He is also host of E! News and has his own nationally syndicated Top 40 radio show, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, based out of Los Angeles. Incidentally, Seacrest is also one of our favorite Twitter celebrities... Exciting as that distinction may be, I am sure he is more thrilled about the $38 mil per year. Photo Credit: RyanSeacrest.com
    Rush Limbaugh
  • Rush Limbaugh

    The big man in (conservative) talk radio, and frequent Obama foe, brings in more than $33 million per year. His syndicated radio show is heard on more than 600 stations around the country. With that kind of money, he can afford to buy all the tea bags in the world. According to his official web site, his nicknames include “America's Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy.” You forgot Most Humble Man in America. Photo Credit: RushLimbaugh.com
    Glenn Beck
  • Glenn Beck

    FOX News host Glenn Beck was on track last year to bring in more than $18 million. That income comes from his FOX television gig, his syndicated radio program heard on more than 400 stations nationwide, and #1 New York Times bestsellers including his debut novel, The Christmas Sweater. Cha-ching. I don’t care how high your taxes are, Glenn, you still have more than most people. Photo Credit: GlennBeck.com
    Dr. Phil
  • Dr. Phil

    Famous television self-helper Dr. Phil makes more than $45 million per year. I mean, he’s no Oprah (though she did make him), but that’s still a totally decent income stream. Despite his high income, Dr. Phil was ripped a few years ago by TMZ.com for reportedly looking to hire someone at an entry-level position for his show… for, get this, $8 an hour. He also has a line of bestselling books to his name, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Self Matters: Creating Your Life from the Inside Out. Photo Credit: DrPhil.com
    Howard Stern
  • Howard Stern

    Stern signed a five-year, $500 million contract with satellite radio programmer SIRIUS that is set to expire later this year, as some earlier coverage notes. Whether the King decides to renew or not, he will be financially OK either way. Photo Credit: HowardStern.com
    Rosie O’Donnell
  • Rosie O’Donnell

    Controversial former View host Rosie O’Donnell demanded $10 million from ABC for a one-year extension, and they reportedly said no. They were, however, willing to offer $30 million for a three-year contract extension, which did not interest Rosie. In the past she’s made money from a day time talk show, movies, stand-up and now she hosts a radio show on Sirius. So we can assume she does all right, if she can afford to turn down $30 million deals. 10 years ago her net worth was estimated to be $100 million. Photo Credit: Rosie.com
    Jimmy Kimmel
  • Jimmy Kimmel

    As Kimmel has said in an interview, “My plan is to make as much money as possible and then disappear forever.  Never be seen again. If people don’t like me, they should support me as much as possible because [then] I’ll be gone before they know it.” Of course, if he were serious, Kimmel would have already disappeared—presumably ABC pays him millions each year, in line with competitors at the other two networks, CBS and NBC. (We were unable to find an exact salary for Kimmel, but suffice it to say he probably makes more in an evening than I do in a year.) Photo Credit: Jimmy Kimmel Live!
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