Talk isn't cheap. From Oprah Winfrey (No. 1) to Tyra Banks (No. 6) to Conan O'Brien (No. 8), TV's 10 best-paid talk show hosts collectively raked in an estimated $568 million between June 1, 2008, and June 1, 2009. While most of them have been busy padding their pocketbooks with side projects and endorsement deals, they have their gift for gab to thank for the bulk of their earnings.
Consider NBC's decision to replace five hours of costly scripted dramas at 10 p.m. with prime-time episodes of a nightly “Jay Leno Show.” While much of the creative community has blasted the financially minded programming move, few deny it will save the General Electric-owned company millions in production. Leno's new talk show not only keeps the former “Tonight Show” host at NBC, but also costs as little as 10 percent of an average 10 p.m. drama. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.)
Marketing aside, the only expensive part is Leno, who places fifth on this list. Between stand-up and the “Tonight Show,” the affable host pulled down an estimated $32 million last year, a sum which is expected to rise with the new gig.
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