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TV’s Biggest Moneymakers – Highest Earning TV Shows

TV’s Biggest Moneymakers – Highest Earning TV Shows

To rank TV’s Biggest Moneymakers, we used data from Kantar Media to come up with average revenue earned by each show per half-hour. That way we could compare a half-hour sitcom like Two and a Half Men to an hour-long show like Desperate Housewives.

American Idol

$7.11 million

Now in its 10th season, the singing competition continues to crush the competition, despite the loss of head judge Simon Cowell. These advertising rates reflect the 2010 series when Cowell was still on the panel and one-season judge Ellen DeGeneres was sitting by his side. They are down $1 million from 2009 rates.

Two and a Half Men

$2.89 million

Now that Charlie Sheen has been fired from the show, the huge hit sitcom is in limbo. If CBS and Warner Bros. bring in a new star (rumor is that John Stamos is being considered) the show could continue to attract advertisers but probably not at the same high ad rates.

Desperate Housewives

$2.74 million

After seven seasons, Desperate Housewives is still going strong on ABC. The show reliably pulls in 4.6 million viewers per week. This year it moves up three spots to third place on forbes list even though the average revenue per 30 minutes is about the same as last year.

Grey’s Anatomy

$2.67 million

The hospital show has been a perennial winner for ABC, and despite star Katherine Heigl leaving last year, it shows no sign of slowing down. Grey’s is earning the same it did last year and has already been renewed for an eighth season.

Dancing With the Stars

$2.67 million

While most of the shows on forbes list are scripted, reality TV still demands an ad premium, especially when it becomes must-watch viewing like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. The newest lineup for the show (which includes Ralph Macchio) has come under fire for being exceptionally D-list.


$2.60 million

Lost finished with a bang last year. The finale show attracted 13.5 million viewers. That’s not quite American Idol numbers, but it’s a lot for a show that asked viewers to follow a winding plot over several years. So far nothing seems poised to replace the hit show.

The Big Bang Theory

$2.50 million

The second show from producer Chuck Lorre on our list, The Big Bang Theory has been slowly growing in popularity. It didn’t even make our list last year. Now the show, about a couple of science geeks, is considered an anchor that can help launch new shows.


$2.45 million

24 was one of the most innovative shows of all time with its real-time format. But last year after eight seasons, Jack Bauer had his last rough day, ending on a high note as one of the highest-earning shows on television. There are rumors that a movie is in the works.

Private Practice

$2.32 million

This Grey’s Anatomy spin-off, which premiered in 2007, doesn’t get the ratings of its sister show. But it’s a reliable enough winner to command an impressive $2.32 million per half hour. Private Practice did not make our list of 2009’s Biggest Moneymakers.

Mike & Molly

$2.11 million

The only new show on forbes list, Mike & Molly (the third show from producer Chuck Lorre) benefits from its time slot between CBS’ hit shows How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. The show could take a hit if Two and a Half Men can’t recover from star Charlie Sheen’s meltdown.

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