As television’s influence has increased, and the quality of the projects being shown on various networks, cable channels, and streaming services has grown demonstrably over the years, the medium has found itself able to draw some top-notch talent in an effort to secure as many viewers as possible. This helps various series compete not only with other television programs, but, increasingly, with theatrical releases as well. In order to do that, television has to offer its top-notch talent top dollar, whether its to tempt actors from the world of film, or to keep those on incredibly popular television shows, like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, happy and willing to return for another season.
As such, the question of who is being paid what has become a matter of great interest. More and more, headlining stars are securing deals for incredible sums of money, and award-winning actors with resumes filled with feature films are being courted to TV with lucrative deals. But just how much money is being thrown around for these stars?
According to THR, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep are among the latest actors associated more with movies to get major paydays for new series on TV networks and streaming services. The article also details the salaries for established actors on TV shows. The two biggest name actors on The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln, recently received a raise to $550,000 and $650,000 for the show’s seventh and eighth seasons. On Game of Thrones, the five core actors -- Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau -- all agreed to receive $1.1 million per episode for the final two seasons of that show, in new deals announced in June. although those figures were reported as $500,000 per episode at the time.
The difference between what an established star like Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep is making compared to the cast of a series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead demonstrates just how much it matters that a show can rise above the din of so many other television programs and justify such staggering sums of money. At the same time, don't feel bad for Robert De Niro just yet -- pulling in three quarters of a million dollars per episode is nothing to sneeze at. And apparently that’s what it takes to lure performers away from film and into the increasingly competitive arena of television.
While it can be exciting for movie stars to give TV a shot -- in the best case scenario, it’s Matthew McConaughey on the first season of True Detective -- there’s something to be said for actors who started off as unknowns finding great success with their shows. After all, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have grown in popularity over time, and those actors were not making nearly that amount when the shows first launched.
The Walking Dead is currently airing its seventh season on AMC. Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season next year on HBO.