ET's Mary Hart taking 50 percent salary cut in final year

Fri Aug 6, 2010 3:30am EDT
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By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There's five million reasons "Entertainment Tonight" was willing to part with Mary Hart.

Five million dollars is the astronomical sum the iconic anchor was making in her 29th year at the entertainment news show. Hart accepted a pay cut -- which one informed source says amounted to 50% -- in May for one final season. She last struck a multiyear contract renewal with "ET" in 2006.

CBS Television Distribution (CTD) declined comment.

It's a reflection of the declining fortunes of TV's syndication business, where reductions in advertising revenue, ratings and license fees obtained from station groups are bound to make superstar salaries a rarity.

"It would be naive to believe that even the most marquee shows aren't experiencing some retrenchment or at best maintaining status quo," said Bill Carroll, a syndication market expert with Katz Media Group.

The departure of Hart, who announced Thursday that the coming season would be her last on "ET," has kicked up speculation that Lara Spencer, host of another CTD property, "The Insider," would take her place.

Whether Hart left of her own volition or was nudged out the door, the economics that made her impossible to keep on start at the local TV station level, which is coming off a few brutal years that saw revenues drained by the recession.

The annual 5% license-fee increases conglomerates like CBS could once count on from station groups no longer remain feasible. With stations increasingly unwilling to pay, syndicators are forced to cut or maintain license fees or risk losing their time slot in "prime access," the 7-8 p.m. slot second only to primetime in revenue riches.   Continued...

<p>Entertainment journalist Mary Hart announces winners at the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards news conference at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California January 13, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>