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Mo’ Money, Mo’ TV

The summer is officially over; September is here, and it’s not only a sign of cooler weather, but also that we’ll be spending more and more time in front of the screen. And there will be plenty to watch! Autumn brings with it biggies such as the already record-breaking HBO show House of Dragons, See with Jason Momoa, and the latest season of The Crown. But we’ll also have the Amazon series debuting this weekend, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which with a budget of over $1 billion, will be the most expensive TV series of all time. How big a deal is a TV show, anyway? What are the most profitable TV shows of all time? We’re looking in vain for Game of Thrones in the top ten, but instead, we have Homer Simpson and a host of comedy sitcoms…

ABC’s biggest hit, Modern Family, debuted in 2009 and ran for 11 seasons. The 2020 series finale drew 7.4 million viewers. The series’ average ad revenue from the 2014-15 season to the 2017-18 season was steady at between $224,000 and nearly $240,000 per 30-second spot. In 2010, USA Network bought the syndication rights to Modern Family for $1.5 million per episode, and Hulu and NBCUniversal Peacock announced they would share streaming rights to all 250 episodes of the sitcom in 2021.

When Friends wrapped in 2004, 52.5 million people watched the final episode on NBC, the fourth-highest viewership for a finale in history. According to Forbes, the series has made more than $1.4 billion in total for its stars and creators since its debut in 1994. That includes nearly $816 million in pre-tax earnings for the six stars – about $136 million each. The show’s creators – David Crane and Marta Kaufman – and co-producer Kevin S. Bright have also amassed at least half a billion dollars. In total, Friends brought Warner Bros. (the company producing the series) an estimated $4.8 billion from syndication and streaming deals.

CBS’s brainchild, The Big Bang Theory, debuted in 2007 and ran for 12 seasons. Even in its final season, it averaged 17.31 million viewers per episode. The series was such a hit that the network asked for $1.2 million to $1.5 million for a 30-second commercial during the 2019 series finale. According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO Max has acquired exclusive streaming rights to The Big Bang Theory in a multi-billion-dollar deal in 2019.

The Simpsons, which has been running since 1989, is the longest-running animated series in television history. In 2013, Twentieth Century Fox TV and Twentieth TV sold the first syndication rights and VOD sales of the series to FX Networks’ FXX for more than $750 million.