Thursday, November 12, 2009

Prime Time's Top-Earning Men

In an industry hammered by changing viewer habits and dwindling advertising dollars, the 50-year-old Brit and his Fox juggernaut American Idol continue to score record ratings and big money. Though the singing competition's viewership has slid in recent years, it still managed to round out last season with an average weekly audience of 27 million, making it the most-watched series in prime time. And like Cowell's fellow top earners, the host you love to loathe has found several avenues to cash in, including judging, producing and music publishing. His total haul between June 1, 2008, and June 1, 2009: $75 million.

At No. 2 is the real-estate mogul turned reality show host Donald Trump, who banked an estimated $50 million from his similarly vast collection of entertainment ventures this year. (Earnings are calculated before taxes, management fees and other costs; voice-only actors were omitted from the list.)

Fellow Idol-er Ryan Seacrest lands at No. 3 on the list, earning a cool $38 million during the 12-month period.

Rounding out the top five are TV actors Charlie Sheen and Steve Carell, who earned an estimated $21 million and $20 million, respectively.

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