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How comedian Seinfeld earned almost a billion

American comedian Jerry Seinfeld is not on the Forbes billionaires list released Wednesday, but he’s close.

His net worth is hovering around US$950 million based on very conservative reports, thanks to “Seinfeld” -- one of the greatest sitcoms in history, with the numbers to prove it.

“It’s a touch under a billion and in a post-Bezos world, sure. But what’s fascinating is that the vast majority came after the show’s initial run,” the website Boss Hunting reported, breaking down how much money the man has made from the show so far – and how every dollar has contributed to his aggregate net worth.

In the first season of the show, Seinfeld earned US$20,000 per episode. Given this spanned for just five episodes, season 1 earned him a modest US$100,000.

This rate doubled to US$40,000 per episode for Seinfeld season 2 and season 4, bringing this chunk of take-home to US$3.5 million. For the 70 episodes across seasons 4, 5, and 6, Jerry was compensated with US$100,000 a pop -- US$9.4 million all up.

The real excitement began when the show’s popularity and cultural sway reached all-new heights. At a revised salary of US$500,000 per episode, the 46 episodes across seasons 7 and 8 came to US$23 million.

Arriving at the final season, Jerry Seinfeld effectively became the first television actor to ever cash in US$1 million per episode (or US$13,000 per line, according to CNBC). With a 24-episode duration, this amounted to US$24 million.

In 1998, NBC offered Seinfeld another US$100 million – US$5 million per episode, 20 episodes – for one more season post, which he promptly refused. As Boss Hunting reported, he wouldn’t exactly need it.

Jerry Seinfeld and “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David each retained 7.5% of the show’s backend equity points from the very beginning. As the show grew in success, they negotiated a doubling of points to 15% apiece, their minimum cut for every bit of official Seinfeld-related revenue in perpetuity from mugs to reruns on any channel.

To this day, it’s estimated that both Seinfeld and David receive residuals of between US$40 million and US$60 million each year.

One of the earlier syndication deals circa 1998 was worth US$1.7 billion, and Seinfeld’s share was US$255 million straight off the bat, Boss Hunting reported.

While the details surrounding the deals before and after the US$1.7-billion transaction have never been fully outlined, Boss Hunting said US$3 billion of syndication revenue was generated between 1995 and 2015.

Without taking the last five years into consideration, that’s at least US$450 million, the website said. And filling in the blanks with Collider – accounting for syndication, DVD sales, and merchandise – in this regard, Seinfeld the man has earned approximately US$800 million from the show since 1998.

The future, of course, is online. Jerry Seinfeld and his net worth have apparently enjoyed a hike each time Seinfeld’s streaming rights changed hands on top of the US$800 million via Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix.

The issue with all the reported figures, Boss Hunting said, is that when you do the math, it exceeds Jerry Seinfeld’s supposed net worth of US$950 million.

“Forget about t-shirts, Kramer art prints, and custom George Costanza voicemails. Syndication and streaming alone levels it to almost a billion,” the website said.

Topics: Jerry Seinfeld , Forbes , billionaires list , Boss Hunting , "Seinfield"
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