20 Years Later, Friends Cast Members Still Making Millions Off Reruns

20 Years Later, Friends Cast Members Still Making Millions Off Reruns
Image credit: NBC, Legion-Media

They must have sent Red Ross in to negotiate.


  • In the third season of Friends, breakout star David Schwimmer encouraged the six main actors to negotiate their contracts together.
  • That meant a pay cut for some and a raise for others.
  • Over the course of their time on the air, the power of collective bargaining meant the cast ended up making more than $1 million per episode.
  • Now they earn about $20 million a year each from syndication.

It’s been over two decades since the finale of Friends, but the stars of the hit show are still making more money from reruns than most of us will see in our lifetimes.

There is no paycheque jealousy among the famously tight-knit cast, and no complaints about the women getting paid less than the men (a notorious problem in Hollywood as well as many other industries.) How is this possible?

Well, according to six main friends, it’s all down to the power of collective bargaining.

Stronger Together

For the first two years that Friends was on the air, contract negotiations were the same as they were anywhere else: each actor’s agent did their best for their own client, using the leverage and fame at their disposal. That meant that in season two, breakout star David Schwimmer was making more money than any of his co-workers. After all, he was becoming a major draw for the series, and he was getting lots of film and television offers. Jennifer Aniston ’s fee was close behind his.

According to Matthew Perry ’s biography and confirmed by the rest of the cast, it was Schwimmer who suggested that the group all negotiate their contracts together, ensuring that all six of the major cast members would get identical paycheques. It’s easy to fire one cast member who’s asking for a raise (Maggie Roswell, the voice of Maude Flanders, comes to mind), but how could the network play hardball and risk losing all six actors? At one point during contract disputes the whole Friends gang walked out of filming an episode, something that an individual actor could never have done.

20 Years Later, Friends Cast Members Still Making Millions Off Reruns - image 1

Taking a Hit for the Team

While the negotiating power was a lot stronger with the cast bargaining together, that doesn’t mean everyone shot right to the top of the pay scale. Instead, both Schwimmer and Aniston took pay cuts in order for the rest of the team to get a raise.

Of course, that was in season three of Friends… so they probably weren’t lamenting the pay cut for long. The popularity of the show meant that everyone got raises soon enough. Plus, baked into the main cast’s contracts were 'residuals', meaning that every time Friends is shown as a rerun or bought by a streaming service the cast gets 2% of the deal.

When you consider that Netflix paid $100 million to stream Friends for a single year, you can see how fast that 2% would add up. In fact, each of the six friends makes approximately $20 million per YEAR on reruns.

How Much Did the Paychecks Change?

According to various sources, here is what the cast made on average over the course of their 10-year run.

Season One: $22,500

Season Two: Between $22,500 and $40,000

Season Three (when they began negotiating as a group): $75,000

Season Four: $85,000

Season Five: $100,000

Season Six: $125,000

Seasons Seven & Eight: $750,000

Seasons Nine & Ten: $1,000,000

It’s easy to imagine that a discrepancy in pay could cause some friction in a long-running series like this one. Thanks to Schwimmer and Aniston being willing to take one for the team, everyone on television’s most popular sitcom got to get rich… and stay friends.

Source: LA Times.