Friends Cast Salaries: From the Pilot to the Finale

The hit sitcom Friends aired for ten seasons from 1994 to 2004, becoming one of history’s most successful TV shows. The sitcom’s enduring popularity has reportedly earned Warner Bros. $1 billion yearly in syndication revenue. But how much did the cast of Friends earn per episode, from the very first to the last? 

Well, if you used a platform like Orbit Exchange to bet on how much they each made per episode, we guess you wouldn’t be close. According to Insider, the six main cast members, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, were each paid $22,500 per episode in season one. This was a significant sum for a new show but would pale compared to their eventual salaries. By the final two seasons, the cast had successfully negotiated raises to $1 million per episode each.

The pay increases were gradual over the show’s run. They earned $40,000 per episode in season two, then $75,000 in season three. This rose to $85,000 in season four, $100,000 in season five, and $125,000 in season six. The cast took home $750,000 per episode in seasons seven and eight before reaching the $1 million milestone. With other successful productions like James Bond making waves at the same time as Friends, none paid as much as the sitcom did.

Supporting Cast Salaries

While the main cast eventually earned equal pay, the supporting cast’s compensation was more variable. James Michael Tyler, who played sarcastic barista Gunther, started at just $5,000 per episode in season one. By the end of the series’ run, Tyler had made $40,000 per episode, appearing in 185 episodes across all ten seasons.

Child actor Cole Sprouse, who portrayed Ross’ son Ben in later seasons, was reportedly paid $20,000 per episode for his 7-episode arc. This was an impressive sum for a young actor, and Sprouse has gone on to further success, now earning $40,000 per episode for his starring role on Riverdale.

It’s worth noting that even the lower salaries paid to the supporting cast were relatively high for the time. Recurring roles on successful sitcoms were coveted positions, and the exposure could lead to lucrative opportunities. Tyler, for example, became closely associated with Friends despite his character’s limited screen time.

The Cast’s Current Net Worth

Thanks to Friends’ enduring popularity and the cast’s backend deals, the show continues to pad their already impressive net worths. All members of the main cast are estimated to earn around $20 million annually in residuals.

Jennifer Aniston has the highest net worth, at $300 million, followed by Courteney Cox, at $150 million, while David Schwimmer’s is $100 million. Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc round out the group, with net worths of $90 million and $80 million, respectively. Matt Perry’s net worth before dying tragically earlier last year was reported to be $120 million.

These sky-high figures result from their Friends salaries and the cast’s successful post-show careers. Aniston, in particular, has become a major movie star, commanding high fees for films like Marley & Me and We’re the Millers. 

The others have also found success on the big and small screens, with Cox starring in Cougar Town, Kudrow creating Web Therapy, and LeBlanc playing a fictionalized version of himself on Episodes. Perry and Schwimmer have recently focused more on stage work and directing.

The Friends cast’s salary negotiations and current net worth are testaments to the show’s phenomenal and lasting success. They set a new standard for TV actor compensation by banding together to negotiate as a group. By securing backend deals and royalties, they ensured they would continue to profit from the show’s popularity for years to come. 

While few shows will ever match Friends’ success, the cast’s financial trajectory is an aspirational model for actors in the industry. It’s proof that a hit show can provide for its stars for a lifetime with the right combination of talent, timing, and savvy negotiating.