Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that the stars of The Big Bang Theory are getting fat new paychecks just as the hit CBS comedy is getting ready for its big move to Thursdays next week. After almost 3 months of negotiations with series producer Warner Bros TV, Big Bang leads Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, and Jim Parsons have agreed to a major salary hike that would bring the trio’s salaries to $200,000 an episode for the upcoming fourth season, up from about $60,000 last season. The salaries will rise to $250,000 in Season 5, then $300,000 in Season 6 and 350,000 in Season 7. Additionally, they will each receive .25 point of the series’ lucrative backend and will be paid $1+ million as an advance against it now and another $1 million in Season 7. That effectively adds another $50,000 to their per-episode paycheck over the life of the deal.

I hear Galecki and Cuoco, who have been negotiating together, closed their deals on Monday in a face-to-face meeting between their representatives and Warner Bros following a powwow with the two actors and their teams on Friday where the studio’s final offer was presented. Meanwhile, recent Emmy winner Jim Parsons had been holding out for more money and had handled his negotiations separately despite the fact that he is represented by the same law firm as Galecki and Cuoco (Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman). I learned that Parsons was offered the same deal as Galecki and Cuoco and given a deadline to take the take it or leave it by today. He just accepted. Talk about hardball: I hear the studio, which had made it clear it was planning to do “favored nations”-type deals (paying all the stars the same), was prepared to table re-negotiations with Parsons until next summer if he had turned down the offer.

Sources close to the talent and studio side called this a great deal for a first renegotiation, though some noted that the trio of Big Bang stars could have gotten even bigger salary bumps if Parsons had not gone solo and they all had bargained together. That’s how the Friends cast got to $100,000 an episode each in 1996 dollars during their first renegotiations with Warner Bros after Season 2. Big Bang has the potential to become the next Friends, especially if its move to Friends‘ Thursday 8 PM time slot works well. The series is coming off a red-hot 3rd season, in which it became the highest-rated comedy on TV, and a blockbuster syndication deal that netted Warner Bros. $2+ million per episode.

In fact, speculations about major cast salaries renegotiations started shortly after the giant syndication deal was announced in May. Talks began in late June with an $100,000 per-episode offer by the studio, to which the actors’ reps didn’t even respond. After Comic-Con, where the Big Bang cast was among the most popular attractions, talks remained stalled. But in the week leading to the show’s production start date, the two sides re-engaged and continued communication with a lot of backchannel conversations back-and-forth until an agreement was reached. “It’s been arduous and hard but amicable and based on real relationships,” between reps and Warner Bros execs, one source close to the negotiations tells me. Added another of my insiders, “It was done in a quiet, fair and respectful way.” Indeed, the actors never even considered a walkout and fulfilled all their duties on the show throughout the entire renegotiation process.

In the only downer, Cuoco won’t be able to fully celebrate her new deal right away. She is at a hospital recuperating from a horseback riding accident over the weekend but is expected to make a full recovery.

Next to renegotiate are Big Bang’s co-stars Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, who also are expected to negotiate salary increases. Reps for Warner Bros. and the actors declined to comment for this story.

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