ABC’s hit comedy Modern Family just wrapped production on its third seasons but there will be little downtime for the cast’s representatives while their clients are on hiatus. No conversations have started between the actors and the studio that produces the Emmy-winning comedy, 20th Century Fox TV, but everyone knows they are coming. There were overtures last summer when the two sides had talks but ultimately tabled the issue until this summer. The cast got complimentary salary bumps that were bigger than what their contracts stipulate but nowhere near what a renegotiation would get them. The actors started off in the $30,000 – $60,000 range, with Ed O’Neill, the best known actor by a mile when Modern Family launched, higher than anyone else. I hear that, with the latest salary bumps, the remaining adult cast members, including Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara, now make more that $60,000 an episode, while O’Neill is around $100,000.
Given the success of Modern Family, the biggest single-camera comedy series to hit the airwaves in years, expectations are that its cast will enter negotiations from a starting point similar to the actors from The Big Bang Bang Theory, which was $200,000-$250,000 an episode. After lengthy negotiations, the three stars of the CBS sitcom, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco, each landed $200,000 per episode, with hefty yearly raises built in, along with a piece of the show’s lucrative back end. In that case, Parsons chose to negotiate separately from Galecki and Cuoco which some say may have hurt the stars’ leverage. It is unclear yet if the Modern Family cast will opt to renegotiate together. There are early indications that the actors may be leaning in that direction but there have been no formal conversations among them. The rationale is that like Friends, Modern Family is a true ensemble comedy, and the Friends sextet did extremely well in sticking together when they renegotiated their deals. Also like the Friends actors, the cast of Modern Family have different lawyers. (The Big Bang trio was repped by the same law firm). Four of the six actors — O’Neill, Burrell, Ferguson and Stonestreet — are at ICM, Vergara is at CAA, Bowen at Paradigm. Even if the actors don’t go in together, it is likely that, like Warner Bros. did with Big Bang and ABC Studios with the cast of Desperate Housewives, 20th TV would evoke “favored nation” status, giving all or the majority of the cast equal terms. Modern Family has already been sold in first-run broadcast syndication and has a rich off-network deal with USA Network. One observer called it “one of the most valuable TV shows in history.” In addition to its lucrative syndication deals and cachet from its slew of Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG awards, Modern Family also has been a huge ratings performer. With a big Live+7 bump, Modern Family ranks as the highest-rated scripted show on television by a large margin, averaging a 8.0/20 in adults 18-49, topping Big Bang and getting close to what Friends once drew.