TV & Showbiz

What People Aren’t Asking About the Vanna White Salary Story

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Last Updated on August 12, 2023

Since Pat Sajak announced his coming retirement from ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ we’ve learned about a Vanna White salary controversy.

Will Vanna White continue with Wheel of Fortune or will she depart? We only know part of the answer to that question so far. But plenty of people have been focused lately on the Vanna White salary controversy.

Things began to unfold a few weeks back when Pat Sajak, who has hosted ‘Wheel’ for 40 years in syndication said he would retire at the end of this coming season. White, who has been his co-host and “letter turner” for 39 seasons on the syndie version was suggested as a possible replacement. Sony ultimately chose Ryan Seacrest. That wasn’t a bad choice, since Seacrest actually has game show hosting experience. Even better, he’s not a stand-up comedian who’s more interested in getting laughs than moving the show along.

But then we learned an interesting detail about White. She earns $3 million per season. But she hasn’t had a raise in years.

How many years? Well, that’s where it gets interesting. The website Puck wrote that White worked for the same salary for 18 years.

White’s fans, as one might expect, seem up in arms over this. It’s the whole “how dare they treat her that way?” routine.

I immediately shift to a different question

I can’t help but wonder how long you would work the same job without a raise. For that matter, I wonder how much we’d have to love — really love — what we do to keep the same job without an increase for that long.

I find it hard to believe that if she worked nearly two decades without an increase, she must not have been pretty happy.

So why did Vanna White simply agree to work year after year for no raise?

As much as the Vanna White salary controversy riled her fans, she could have let her salary status slip years ago. She certainly could have gotten a raise before now if she really wanted one.

And if she asked for a raise after, say, 10 years without a buck more and they declined, she could have brought hellfire and brimstone on the show for their treatment of her.

I mean, I love what I do, even though things sometimes get crazy and hectic. But I like what I do. Even so, I expect a raise each year. And in fact, I get a raise each year. It averages about 3% or so, which some might argue is not enough. But for me, the gesture is important.

If I worked in the same job for 18 years and there was no discussion of a raise, I’d have to look at my salary compared to my workload. I don’t make anywhere near $3 million a year. I never will.

Somehow, I suspect that if I did what White did for a living, I’d be happy to make $3 million a year. Wheel of Fortune reportedly tapes six episodes per day for a total of 48 days per year.

That’s $3 million for a month-and-a-half’s work per year? How’d you like to make $62,500 per workday?

I have to say, that’d suit me fine.

The bigger issue we can pretend it isn’t about

Here’s where pay equity comes into play. Sajak reportedly makes $15 million a year for his hosting duties on the show. Is it fair that he makes $15 million for what he does and White only makes $3 million for what she does?

It’s a game show. It’s not brain surgery.

If game show hosts make $15 million, more power to them. Co-hosts — particularly models on game shows — don’t make what the host makes. “Barker’s Beauties” never made what Bob Barker made on The Price is Right. I’m sure the models on the show now — male and female — don’t make near what Drew Carey makes. Carol Merrill probably made a fraction of what Monty Hall made on Let’s Make a Deal, and Tiffany Coyne probably makes drastically less than Wayne Brady does on the current run of the show.

How much should White make compared with Sajak? How do you come up with a fair ratio between their two salaries? We see White all through the show since she’s there every time we see the puzzle board. So she certainly gets plenty of face time.

Now that the puzzle board is fully computerized and doesn’t require a person to stand there and physically turn letters, the show doesn’t need anyone in White’s slot. Still, since its premiere on NBC daytime in 1975, there’s always been a person there. First, it was Susan Stafford, then White. So the show would definitely feel different if they just let the computer reveal the letters all the time.

But what’s a reasonable salary? And why, after 18 years of $3 million a year, is $3 million a year suddenly unreasonable? Why wasn’t it unreasonable three years ago? Or five? Or eight?

She did get a raise so far

While Hollywood strikes postponed salary negotiations for the main show, White scored a victory for ABC’s prime time Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, according to Deadline. It reports she will return as host of that series under a new contract. It doesn’t mention a salary, but says her new salary represents a “significant” increase.

So if she’s the new host for that series, who’ll operate the puzzle board? Will they bring on a male model for that duty? Or will they bring on another female to activate all those letters?

Presumably, she wouldn’t continue with the prime time show if she didn’t intend to continue with the syndicated show.

That last Vanna White salary question: How much should it be now?

If current estimates were correct, she was making a fifth of Sajak’s salary. While that doesn’t surprise me, it seems a bit low.

I can’t imagine Seacrest would take a lower salary than Sajak. (I can’t imagine they’d offer a name like him a lower salary, given how relatively easy it is to find reports about Sajak’s income.)

But just for the sake of argument, let’s say Seacrest would make $15 million for his first season. Shouldn’t White, given her experience on the show, warrant at least half of what a new host is making? Or maybe two-thirds?

How do you put a dollar value on experience against two very different roles?

Fortunately, someone else will have to decide on that. I’m glad it’s not me.

How much would you pay Vanna White to keep her on ‘Wheel’?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.