Buck­ing the trends

Eco­nomic times are tough, but many stars re­main rich as well as fa­mous, write Colin Vick­ery and Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

THE global fi­nan­cial cri­sis has hit the TV in­dus­try hard. Chan­nel 10 has warned of a huge first-half earn­ings slump, So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lyth­goe has lost half his per­sonal for­tune, and Neigh­bours stal­wart Ian Smith’s su­per­an­nu­a­tion stash has taken an enor­mous hit at a most in­op­por­tune time — as he re­tires from the soap.

Net­works are out to slash costs, so you can bet that as long as times are tough there will be some awk­ward con­trac­tual ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween sta­tions and some of their stars.

Chan­nel 9 has al­ready axed Footy Show fun­ny­man Trevor Mar­malade, who was said to be earn­ing about $600,000 a year.

The fu­ture is cer­tain to bring more shows such as Chan­nel 10’s Guer­rilla Gardeners, fea­tur­ing a low-paid cast of un­knowns, and fewer shows such as Jamie Durie’s Out­door Room, with its multi-mil­lion dol­lar price tag.

Some stars, how­ever, are thriv­ing de­spite the gloom.

The Work­ing Dog team’s Thank God You’re Here was a rat­ings hit on Chan­nel 10 and poached last De­cem­ber by Chan­nel 7 in a deal worth about $1 mil­lion an episode.

In many cases, it’s those (such as Work­ing Dog) who have their own pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies — packaging their shows rather than stay­ing salar­ied em­ploy­ees of the net­works — who are mak­ing the big­gest bucks.

They in­clude The Wig­gles ($45 mil­lion a year), the pro­duc­ers of Hi-5 ($18 mil­lion), Work­ing Dog ($ 15 mil­lion), Rove McManus ($3 mil­lion) and Kath & Kim’s Gina Ri­ley and Jane Turner ($3 mil­lion). Chris Lil­ley ($2 mil­lion) is an upand-comer with his cut of mam­moth DVD sales of Sum­mer Heights High and We Can Be He­roes.

McManus, how­ever, has scoffed at the no­tion he’s pock­et­ing all of his quoted earn­ings.

McManus runs a pro­duc­tion com­pany, Rov­ing En­ter­prises, that has em­ployed up to 85 peo­ple, de­pend­ing on how many shows are in pro­duc­tion at the one time.

The is­sue of his earn­ings last year prompted him to say: ‘‘I think peo­ple some­times get con­fused with how much comes into the com­pany that gets put into projects and how much ac­tu­ally gets put into my bank ac­count.’’

In in­di­vid­ual terms, Ed­die McGuire leads the pack in Aus­tralia with his $4 mil­lion an­nual salary, ne­go­ti­ated when he stepped down as Nine CEO. The pres­sure will be on for any new show he hosts (he has been linked to a 5.30pm news and mag­a­zine-style pro­gram) to be a rat­ings suc­cess.

The Footy Show’s Sam New­man had his con­tract re­newed late last year for an es­ti­mated $3 mil­lion over three years. Other high earn­ers who signed con­tracts in bet­ter times in­clude Bert New­ton ($800,000), Tracy Grimshaw ($ 700,000), Liz Hayes ($ 600,000), Peter Hitch­ener ($600,000), plus Peter Mitchell, An­drew O’Keefe, Garry Lyon and James Brayshaw (all $500,000plus).

Stars who will be looking for­ward to up­com­ing con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions would have to in­clude Erik Thom­son, Re­becca Gib­ney and Michael Ca­ton (from top-rat­ing Packed to the Rafters), Jack Thomp­son ( Find My Fam­ily) and Shane Bourne ( City Homi­cide and Thank God You’re Here). Given their rat­ings suc­cess, they’re all worth $500,000-plus.

Noth­ing guar­an­tees a jump in salary like a bid­ding war with a ri­val net­work. To­day’s Karl Ste­fanovic’s salary dou­bled when Seven tried to poach him to host To­day Tonight.

Ste­fanovic ac­cepted a new con­tract at Nine, said to be worth about $500,000 a year. The deal al­lows him to stay with To­day, but also host new show Ran­dom Acts of Kind­ness and file oc­ca­sional sto­ries for 60 Min­utes.

Sun­rise’s David Koch ($400,000) and Melissa Doyle ($350,000) might wish they were the sub­ject of a bid­ding war.

Footy com­men­ta­tors haven’t had it so lucky. The AFL switch from Nine to Seven saw for­mer big earn­ers Den­nis Cometti and Der­mott Brereton, who had ne­go­ti­ated their orig­i­nal con­tracts at the height of the Nine- v-Ten bid­ding war, suf­fer sig­nif­i­cant cuts in their es­ti­mated $850,000 and $450,000 an­nual salaries.

As net­works try to get leaner and meaner, cer­tain stars are bound to come un­der the mi­cro­scope.

Model Jen­nifer Hawkins’ Make Me a Su­per­model was a rat­ings dis­ap­point­ment and her other show The Great Out­doors was axed. She makes an es­ti­mated $3.3 mil­lion from spon­sor­ship deals as well as TV.

Seven might also be re­gret­ting the rush of blood that saw swim­mer Stephanie Rice signed for a re­ported $800,000 a year.

An­other group to pros­per Aussie stars of US TV shows.

AN­THONY LaPaglia has an $8 mil­lion deal for Without a Trace, and his Aussie co-star Poppy Mont­gomery is on about $3 mil­lion. Then there’s Ju­lian McMa­hon ($6.7 mil­lion), The Men­tal­ist’s Si­mon Baker ($5 mil­lion), House star Jesse Spencer ($2.3 mil­lion), and Broth­ers & Sis­ters’ Rachel Grif­fiths ($2.2 mil­lion).

They pale though, against Oprah Win­frey ($300 mil­lion), Gor­don Ram­say ($135 mil­lion,) Jamie Oliver ($90 mil­lion) and David Let­ter­man ($45 mil­lion).

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