TV Salaries: How Much Money Writers Make?
You may have wondered how much money TV writers, who abandoned their jobs last week and hit the picket lines in protest over DVD residuals and digital media compensation, really make. Let's take a look at the minimums guaranteed by the writers' union basic agreement.
Writers on a prime-time TV series like "Desperate Housewives" earn a minimum of 30,823 USD for writing a story and teleplay per one episode.
If the network requires a rewrite, the applicable minimum is $8,634 per episode. The writer earns a minimum of $4,324 for polishing a script.
The writers are paid a minimum of $2,890 to $3,688 per week on week-to-week term employment basis. If they work in additional capacities they could earn a minimum of up to $6,879 per week (based on the number of weeks they are employed).
The writers also earn additional 'program fees'. A maximum fee of $3,312 per episode is however split among the writers.
Writers may also earn additional fees in case they are asked to come up with story outlines (in case the network wishes to preview an upcoming storyline).
If they are asked to come up with a 'bible' (an outline of up to 6 storylines for an upcoming season) the writers earn a minimum of $44,353 per bible plus an additional $4,435 per storyline if the bible contains more than 6 storylines.
Each prime-time rerun earns the writer credited for writing the story, the teleplay or both a minimum residual payment of $8,431 to $21,078 per episode.
The minimum compensation for reruns in other time than prime-time is 50% or less of the original compensation (50% for 2nd rerun, 40% for 3rd, etc.)
Original compensation is payable within 7 days following script delivery; rerun residuals are payable within 30 days of the rerun.
The writers are also entitled to foreign telecast residuals which is especially important if the show becomes a global phenomenon.
These are all minimum payments enforced by the writers union. Successful writers like Marc Cherry or Shonda Rhimes can have contracts worth 5 million USD per year.
48% of the 12000 members of the writers union are however believed to be unemployed and rely on residual payments.
All minimum payments listed in this post are based on the WGA Theatrical and TV Basic Agreement which expired on 10/31. The minimums were increased in each of the last 3 years for which the said document was valid.