Watch Me Make Millions! TV's Top Earners

From Oprah to Keifer, the small screen's stars earn big bucks.

ByABC News
September 27, 2007, 6:03 PM

Oct. 1, 2007 Special to — -- Whoever dubbed television the "small screen" had a very limited imagination. Television's top-earning personalities--from news anchor Katie Couric to late night funnyman David Letterman--earned a collective $723 million from June 2006 to June 2007, according to our exclusive Forbes TV 20.

Topping the list is Oprah Winfrey, who banked $260 million during that period, more than the take-home pay of macher chief executives like Michael Dell and Larry Ellison over the last fiscal year. (Both join Winfrey on the Forbes 400 list of the Richest Americans, though.)

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While a handful of prime-time stars score mega bucks, the Forbes TV 20 is dominated by daytime personalities, a reflection of just how profitable (and cost-effective) their programs are to network coffers. At 78, Barbara Walters is at the peak of her earnings potential thanks to The View, which she co-owns, co-produces and co-hosts. She makes the list at No. 18, earning $12 million. Though late-night talkers David Letterman (No. 4 at $40 million) and Jay Leno (No. 6 at $32 million) reap substantially more than their daytime counterparts, the arena for morning and afternoon hosts embraces far more competition. Among the daytime chatters making the list are Walters, Rachael Ray, Tyra Banks, Ellen DeGeneres. Regis Philbin, Dr. Phil and, of course, Oprah.

Nabbing the No. 2 spot on the TV 20 was Jerry Seinfeld, with a $60 million payday between June 2006 and June 2007. His iconic "show about nothing" has been off-air for some nine years. Yet Seinfeld continues to reap riches from residuals--god bless reruns!--in addition to lucrative stand-up gigs and endorsement deals.

Aside from Oprah, the only other billionaire on the list is Donald Trump, who banked $32 million from his television and licensing deals. (All told, The Donald clocks in on the Forbes 400 with a net worth of $3 billion.) The Apprentice was given a stay of execution by General Electric-owned NBC, which plans to revive the Trump family-hosted reality show this year with a celebrity-only season.