Business

The business of ‘Friends’: How the sitcom and cast keeps cashing in

They’ll be there for you – and continue to cash in. 

“Friends” is the gift that keeps on giving as new generations discover the beloved ‘90s sitcom as its cast members reunite for a 25th anniversary special on HBO Max Thursday. And its stars are still making bank decades later. 

Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer will come together for an hourlong “Friends” unscripted reunion special – and each member will get paid between $2.5 and $3 million just for being there, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That’s more than twice what they made per episode back in the day. 

“Friends” cast members will reportedly make up to $3 million off of the upcoming reunion special. (David Bjerke/NBCU Photo Bank)

Indeed, when the 10th and final season of the show aired in 2003, the stars negotiated $1 million per episode, paid by NBC and Warner Bros. It was a significant milestone for the time, considering “Big Bang Theory” stars like Kaley Cuoco made the same per show in recent years. 

Photo by J. Delvalle/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

When “Friends” aired its first season in 1994, the stars were reportedly getting $22,500 per episode and made a little less than double that in Season 2 when some cast members made $40,000 per episode, according to Business Insider. 

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The stars hit a six-figure per-episode stride during Season 5 when they reportedly earned $100,000 a show and $750,000 by Season 7.  Today, the cast continues to rake in residuals, receiving $20 million a year just from syndication revenue, USA Today reported. And that’s not even including millions in their own personal endorsement deals. 

The show continues to stay relevant with a slew of “Friends” themed pop-ups, merch lines and collaborations. The Friends Experience, a recreation of the “Friends” set that features props from the show and a fully functioning Central Perk coffee shop, charges $52.50 per ticket in New York City. Ralph Lauren in 2019 launched a clothing line in honor of “Friends” 25th anniversary with styles inspired by Aniston’s character, Rachel. And “Friends” even spawned its own makeup collection via a collaboration with Revolution Beauty that launched last year. It features shades of eye shadows and lipsticks inspired by the show’s leading ladies: Phoebe, Rachel and Monica.

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With the reunion coming up along with the show’s new home on HBO Max, it’s likely that more collaborations will be on the horizon. HBO Max parent company WarnerMedia reportedly paid $85 million per year for five years to get the streaming rights to “Friends,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.