A survey of the American television industry’s highest earners has found a surprising figure tops the list – small-screen mainstay Judy Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy.
According to the research, published by Variety magazine, the 73-year-old’s estimated annual salary is a whopping $US47 million.
This figure eclipses the annual salary of The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco who has previously been regarded as the highest-paid woman in television.
Cuoco, 30, and her two male co-stars Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons each earn $US1 million an episode and each season of the sitcom features 24 episodes, bringing their individual paydays to $US24 million.
Sheindlin, a family court judge from New York, has been on television for 21 seasons and Judge Judy is the highest-rating daytime program on US television.
The salary figures, which Variety says are “estimates based on extensive research to determine talent paydays in the most current seasons of specific series”, are broken down across three genres: comedy, drama and reality/news.
Sheindlin wins across all three, followed by Cuoco, then The Today Show‘s male host Matt Lauer, who’s on $US20-22 million a year.
Other surprising names on the list were Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, the stars of the recently-rebooted series Gilmore Girls. According to Variety, they’re each earning $US750,000 an episode from Netflix after a nine-year hiatus.
Interestingly, women occupy the top slot in all three categories – a refreshing change from recent revelations many female movie actors are paid less than their male counterparts.
Watch the trailer for the Netflix reboot of Gilmore Girls:
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres is also a heavy-hitter, earning $US20 million a year for her hosting gig on her eponymous talk show.
Game of Thrones stars Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are all earning $US500,000 an episode from HBO – as is Kevin Spacey for his dynamo lead role on Netflix’s House of Cards.
Obviously, these numbers would change drastically once you add in endorsements, businesses and contracts some of the actors enjoy in addition to their regular roles.