22 TV Stars With Absurdly Large Paychecks

Christina Austin and Kirsten Acuna


Earlier this week, Brad Pitt said movie stars shouldn't expect to earn more than $10 million per film role. Usually, the same goes for TV stars--unless they're judging vocal chords, wearing a judge's robe in the courtroom, or anchoring a hit show.

We've ranked TV's biggest salary earners, according to reported numbers from TV Guide, The Washington Post, and The Daily Beast.

Surprisingly, actors and actresses who command some of the biggest shows on television hold only one slot on the list. Instead, judges of all sorts--featured on both daytime and primetime reality shows--rank highest.
 
From Britney Spears to Bill O'Reilly, see who earns the most on television.

1.) Judge Judy Sheindlin: $45 million

Judge Judy's syndicated court room show not only makes her the highest-paid person on television, but also the 13th richest woman in entertainment, according to Forbes.



2.) Simon Cowell: $40 million

Though "The X-Factor" hasn't debuted well even despite Britney Spears added to the show, Cowell is still the second-highest paid star on television.




3.) David Letterman $28 million

"The Late Show" host extended his contract on CBS two more years in April, making him the longest-serving late-night host on television. 

The Washington Post clocks him in a bit higher at $31 million.



4.) Matt Lauer: $21.5 million

In response to the NBC "Today" show host's high salary, TV Guide's business editor, Stephen Battaglio told The Daily Beast Lauer keeps viewership high and advertisers paying hundreds of millions. 

“Matt is central to [Today]—if he left, ratings would plummet and NBC would lose at least $100-125 million in ad revenue," said Battaglio.


5.) Judge Joe Brown: $20 million

Judge Joe Brown earns as much as Ripa for his syndicated court room series. The show has been on the air for more than a decade making its debut, September 1998.





5.) Bill O' Reilly: $20 million

"The O'Reilly Factor" host reportedly doubled his salary from last year. Earlier this year, O'Reilly signed a deal to stay on Fox News through 2016.





5.) Kelly Ripa: $20 million

Now the lead co-host of "Live! with Kelly and Michael," Ripa was earning $5 million more than her old co-host Regis before he left.






6.) Mariah Carey: $18 million

With an $18 million paycheck, the singer is the highest-paid celebrity judge on television.






7.) Jon Stewart: $16 million

Stephen Colbert earns a third of what the "The Daily Show" host receives annually.

Last May, Stewart's Comedy Central show pulled in higher ratings than all of Fox News.



8.) Jay Leno: $15 million

After 20 writers and producers lost their jobs on "The Tonight Show," Leno took a 50 percent pay cut to prevent further cuts.







8.) Ryan Seacrest: $15 million

Earlier this year, Seacrest signed a two-year deal to continue hosting "American Idol" giving him a $5 million-a-year pay raise.






8.) Howard Stern: $15 million

"The America's Got Talent" judge also held the title of highest-paid celebrity judge until Spears was hired for "X-Factor."






8.) Britney Spears: $15 million

Spears would have been the highest-paid celebrity judge for season 2 of "The X-Factor"; however, another celebrity knocked her off the top spot. 






8.) Sean Hannity: $15 million

Hannity signed a new deal with Fox News in May. He's the only host to hold the same time slot for 15 years.






9.) Ashton Kutcher: $14 million

Kutcher holds the title for highest-paid actor on television banking $700,000 per episode on "Two and a Half Men."

Considering season 10 of the show has between 20-24 episodes per season, he should rake in somewhere in the ballpark of $14-17 million.



10.) Brian Williams: $13 million

Sawyer's nightly news show may be closing in on the competition; however, Williams still earns slightly more than ABC's leading lady.




10.) Maury Povich: $13 million

Though the nationally syndicated "Maury" has been on the air since 1991, he's been answering paternity questions since the segment began in 1998.





11.) Jon Cryer: $12 million

Cryer is one of the highest-paid actors on television earning $600,000 per episode for "Two and a Half Men."

If the show produces its 20 episode average, he'll bank $12 million.




11.) Conan O' Brien: $12 million

When Conan was let go from NBC's "The Tonight Show" the peacock paid him $32.5 million for the remaining two and a half years of his contract. His current $12 million-per-year salary holds through 2014 with TBS.




11.) Mark Harmon: $12 million

The "NCIS" lead signed a deal with CBS in February 2011 to earn more than $500,000 per episode. With a 24-episode season last year, that's more than nearly any actor on television.





11.) Diane Sawyer: $12 million

The "ABC World News" host's show was ranked the number one newscast on the first night of the Republican National Convention. In the past month, the show has been closing the viewership gap with competitor "NBC Nightly News."




11.) Chelsea Handler: $12 million

Handler earns the big bucks for her late show on E! despite a paltry .7 million viewers. The Los Angeles Times calculated that's an overwhelming $16.70 per viewer.