Judith Sheindlin, most commonly known as Judge Judy, was the highest-paid host on daytime television in 2018, according to Forbes. Sheindlin took home $147 million in pretax dollars last year, helping her beat out Ellen Degeneres and Dr. Phil host Phil McGraw for the rank.
“Many people, as I did in the beginning, get stuck with a job they don’t really like. … If you’re not doing something that you love to do, find something that you love to do, because it will make your whole life different,” Sheindlin said at 2017’s Forbes Women’s Summit. Now that she is raking in the big bucks, it’s no surprise that she now enjoys her job a little bit more.
According to Forbes, last year Sheindlin used a combination of smart negotiations and savvy business deals to sell her rights to Judge Judy’s 10,400-episode library, as well as rights to future episodes, to CBS for approximately $100 million. She also extended her contract with CBS to 2021, which will mark 25 years of Judge Judy on TV. On top of that, she earns $47 million for hosting Judge Judy and producing Hot Bench, so she literally took home triple her typical annual paycheck in 2018. Due to the massive sale of her Judge Judy rights, she landed in the top 50-richest self-made women in America, with a net worth of $400 million, putting her at number 48.
Ellen DeGeneres took home the second spot on the Forbes list, with an income of $87,500,000. Rounding out the top five were: Dr. Phil McGraw, Ryan Seacrest (Live with Kelly and Ryan), and Steve Harvey (Family Feud), who each earned $77,500,000, $74,000,000, and $44,000,000, respectively. Seacrest’s paycheck leaped from $58 million to $74 million in 2018 thanks to his eight-figure check for hosting the revived American Idol, and DeGeneres’ income also climbed due to a $20 million check from Netflix for a single stand-up special.
According to Forbes, these pretax estimates are from June 1, 2017-June 1, 2018, and do not include payments to managers, agents, and lawyers.
Judge Judy typically attracts 10 million viewers in its Monday through Friday afternoon timeslot, according to Fox News, and has been the “No. 1 syndicated daytime program since its 1998-1999 season and has been the No. 1 show in first-run syndication for nine consecutive seasons.” CheatSheet reports that the show even beat out the Oprah Winfrey Show for the 2009-2010 season, making it the first show to accomplish that feat in a decade. Judge Judy premiered on September 16, 1996 and has been going strong since.
Since her rise to fame, Judge Judy has become one of the most recognizable names and faces in pop culture and a household name. She’s been parodied on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, among many other popular television shows.