Thanks to the sale of her TV-show rights, daytime star Judy Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, rose from No. 4 to the top slot this year on Forbes magazine's annual list of highest-paid television hosts.
Capping the list of five hosts — down from last year's 10 and the previous year's 20 — the Brooklyn-born Sheindlin, 76, earned an estimated $147 million for the period between June 1, 2017, and June 1, 2018. CBS announced in August 2017 that the former New York prosecutor and supervising judge in Manhattan family court had sold the rights to more than 5,200 hours of current, library and future episodes of her small-claims judicial show for what Forbes estimated was $100 million. Her series, which began in 1996, has been extended through the 2020-21 season, its 25th.
Coming in second for the third year in a row is daytime talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, 60, with $87.5 million. In addition to "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the stand-up comic was paid in the reported $20 million range for her Netflix comedy special "Relatable,” premiering Dec. 18. She also earned money as an executive producer of the reality show "Little Big Shots," the game show "Ellen's Game of Games," the sitcom "Splitting Up Together," the special "Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here" and digital programming such as "Momsplaining With Kristen Bell." DeGeneres also does commercial endorsements for companies including PetSmart, Spectrum and Bed Bath & Beyond.
The past two years' top earner, TV psychologist Phil McGraw, 68, dropped to No. 3 with $77.5 million. In addition to starring in the syndicated show "Dr. Phil," he is an executive producer of panel-discussion shows and of the CBS drama series "Bull." At No. 4 is radio personality and "Live With Kelly and Ryan" co-host Ryan Seacrest, 43, with $74 million. Comedian Steve Harvey, 61, who in 2017 debuted his third consecutive daytime talk-show, "Steve,” and who continues to host "Family Feud" and other game shows, made No. 5 with $44 million.
Forbes' estimates of pretax earnings before management and other fees are based on data from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo and IMDb, plus interviews with industry experts.
1. Judy Sheindlin — $147,000,000
2. Ellen DeGeneres — $87,500,000
3. Dr. Phil McGraw — $77,500,000
4. Ryan Seacrest — $74,000,000
5. Steve Harvey — $44,000,000