Report: TV’s Most Overpaid (Chelsea Handler) and Underpaid (Seacrest?) Personalities

by | July 16, 2012 at 5:44 PM | TV News

Chelsea Handler; David Letterman; Ryan Seacrest; Christina Aguilera (Photo: Getty Images)


A new report looks at the “real value” of highly paid TV personalities: who’s worth their mega salary — and who doesn’t pay off in the ratings game?

The Los Angeles Times gathered data on the earning power of a select group of TV stars, then analyzed their worth by dividing the celeb’s annual salary by the average number of viewers for that person’s television show.

The results give a fascinating-albeit-skewed perspective on which famous folks are underpaid and overpaid, at least in terms of delivering viewers, by determining how much they earn per viewer.

You’ll find comedian Chelsea Handler at the top of the list: The “Chelsea Lately” star rakes in $12 million a year but her late-night E! show garners just 0.718 million viewers; that means Handler earns $16.70 per viewer, says the LA Times.

Only angsty newsman Keith Olbermann topped that disparity with his haul of $56 per viewer for his now defunct Current TV gig that paid him a $10 million salary.

Those million-dollar stars on smaller networks with lower viewership obviously have a larger ratio, but what about those on high-profile channels?

According to the LA Times story, CNN’s six million dollar man Anderson Cooper could also be considered overpaid, making $13.54 per viewer for his “AC360″ show that draws only 0.4 million viewers.

On the late-night front, David Letterman makes $9.69 for every one of his 3.2 million CBS viewers thanks to his $31 million salary, while “Daily Show” ringleader Jon Stewart, who gets $14 million a year, breaks down to $8.24 for his 1.7 million viewers on Comedy Central.

“Today Show” anchor Matt Lauer comes in at #7; his cool $25 million salary translates to $5.43 per viewer for the morning show’s ratings of 4.6 million.

It’s no wonder Jennifer Lopez wanted out of “American Idol”: her $12.5 million contract resulted in her making just $0.63 per viewer, says the Times.

Likewise, “American Idol” host and hardest working dude in showbiz Ryan Seacrest is practically getting robbed with his $0.75 per viewer when you consider his $15 million salary against the reality show’s 20 million viewers.

How does ex-”Idol” judge Simon Cowell compare? His $40 million “X Factor” payday equals $3.17 per viewer for the Fox show’s 12.6 million sets of eyeballs.

And while new “Two and a Half Men” star
Ashton Kutcher certainly makes big bucks with his $17 million-a-year salary, he actually came in pretty far down on the list at #17, with $1.16 for each one of the 14.7 million viewers who tune-in to the CBS sitcom.

Over on “The Voice,” coach Christina Aguilera is a bargain for NBC, earning $0.17 per viewer with her $2.1 million salary versus the hit show’s 12.7 million viewers.

At the low end of the spectrum? No joke: “Modern Family” dad Ty Burrell makes just 8 cents each for the Emmy-winning sitcom’s 13.3 million loyal fans.