Jerry Seinfeld reportedly turned down over $100 million—$5 million per episode—to produce one more season of his eponymous hit sitcom in the late 90s.
By the ninth season, Seinfeld was making about $1 million for each episode, while his three co-stars were each making around $600,000. The co-stars failed in their push for a larger share of the show's $200 million in profit each season, but the show was still one of the most expensive on television at the time.
The show's massive payday held the record until NBC's 2002 decision to pay each of the six cast members of "Friends" $1 million an episode.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first "Seinfeld" episode, CNBC did an analysis of 180 scripts, in order to determine which of the four main characters played the biggest roles in one of the most popular television shows of all time.
The $400 million man
Jerry is clearly the most talkative of the group, although his lines also declined as the seasons progressed. Cosmo Kramer, on the other hand, played a bigger part in the sitcom as the show went on. George Costanza and Elaine Benes seemed to contribute evenly throughout the show's nine-year run.
What about compensation on a per-line basis? In the final season, Jerry Seinfeld made about $13,000 for each line he delivered. Michael Richards (Kramer), who delivered the least lines but was paid the same as the other two supporting characters, made almost $15,000 per line, while Jason Alexander (George) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine) made about $11,000 and $13,000, respectively.
Seinfeld's per-line payday was doubled between the eighth and ninth seasons, while the other characters saw their compensation triple.
Seinfeld, however, had an additional source of income that the others didn't. As one of the show's creators, he gets a cut of the show's lucrative and ongoing syndication deals, which are estimated to have brought in over $3 billion since 1995. Seinfeld's cut comes to about a whopping $400 million over that time period.
Even if we only count the seasons for which we know Jerry's salary, that means that "Seinfeld" has earned him at least $440 million, or about $30,000 for every line he ever delivered on the show.
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