Highest-Paid TV Actresses 2018

For the seventh year in a row, Sofia Vergara is the highest-paid actress on television

Sofia Vergara
Photo: © Depositphotos.com/s_bukley
Sofia Vergara

Her giant haul, which clocks in at 73% more than second-ranked Kaley Cuoco's $24.5 million, leads this year's ranking of the small screen's top earners.

The Modern Family star reigns supreme thanks not only to her salary from her role on the hit ABC comedy but also to a slew of endorsements and lucrative licensing deals, which make up nearly half of her payday. Among them: coffee maker SharkNinja Coffee and furniture chain Rooms To Go.

"Our attention is on the people watching Modern Family and how to appeal to them outside of the show, too,” Luis Balaguer, Vergara’s manager and business partner, told Forbes in 2016. "Our endorsement department is a well-oiled machine."

By contrast, 95% of Cuoco's earnings can be attributed to her role on Big Bang Theory. Cuoco and her male co-stars took a pay cut, from an estimated $1 million an episode to $900,000 an episode, in an effort to free up cash for ranking newcomers Melissa Rauch (No. 6, $12 million) and Mayim Bialik (No. 6, $12 million). But she still makes plenty from the show, which is now in its final season.

Grey's Anatomy's Ellen Pompeo ($23.5 million) ranks third. Playing Meredith Grey for 15 seasons on Shonda Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy has allowed her to negotiate for a hefty upfront fee, a cut of the backend and a producer fee on spinoff Station 19.

"When your face and your voice have been part of something that's generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, 'OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this,'" Pompeo told The Hollywood Reporter in January.

Rounding out the top five are Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay (No. 4, $13 million) and Modern Family's Julie Bowen (No. 5, $12.5 million). Both forgo endorsements and instead make their cash on screen.

Together, the world's 10 highest-paid TV actresses earned a combined $168.5 million between June 1, 2017, and June 1, 2018, up from $156.5 million in the same period last year.

Returning to the ranking is Homeland's Claire Danes (No. 9, $9 million), who last appeared on the list in 2014. Rauch and Bialik are the only newcomers this year. Cast renegotiations saw their pay boosted to an estimated $500,000 an episode for the soon-to-conclude show.

Three actresses dropped off the ranking: Robin Wright, Mindy Kaling and Priyanka Chopra. Wright did not have any new House of Cardsepisodes in our scoring period while Kaling's The Mindy Projectconcluded. Fewer parts led to a smaller salary for Chopra, who clocked $10 million in 2017.

Methodology

All earnings estimates are from June 1, 2017, through June 1, 2018. Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders.

The World's Highest-Paid Actresses 2018

1. Sofia Vergara

Earnings: $42.5 million

Primary Show: Modern Family

2. Kaley Cuoco

$24.5 million

Big Bang Theory

3. Ellen Pompeo

$23.5 million

Grey's Anatomy

4. Mariska Hargitay

$13 million

Law & Order: SVU

5. Julie Bowen

$12.5 million

Modern Family 

6. (tie) Mayim Bialik

$12 million

Big Bang Theory

6. (tie) Melissa Rauch

$12 million

Big Bang Theory

8. Kerry Washington

$11 million

Scandal

9. Claire Danes

$9 million

Homeland

10. Pauley Perrette 

$8.5 million

NCIS

Forbes.com

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