'Modern Family' Stars Play Hardball in Salary Dispute

The cast of “Modern Family” comes with a ancient problem.

In the telly industry, actors typically sign contracts that cover anything from 5 upto 7 years with annual pay increases of 4% to 6%. The compensation can vary from $40,000 to $70,000 per episode to over six figures for established stars.

On its face, which doesn’t sound so bad. But in the rare cases of a huge commercial hit, the companies that produce and air the show get a big and quick roi. Then their headaches begin – while using actors.

That is the thing that is happening behind the scenes ofABC’sEmmy-award winning hit comedy “Modern Family.”

PHOTOS: Families that changed TV

On Tuesday several key cast members filed suit against the show’s producer, 20th Century Fox Television, to help void their contracts. The actors who initially filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday are Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty O’Neill, another star on the show, subsequently joined their effort.

Motivating the heavens is the fact that ABC is raking in vast sums in advertising revenue and 20th Century Fox Television has sold reruns of “Modern Family” towards the cable channel USA for $1.5 million per episode.

“It’s a pretty natural instinct among actors who understand the money flowing in on the network as well as the studio to want their share,” said Sandy Grushow, chief content officer of consulting firm MediaLink along with a former head of both 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Broadcasting.

PHOTOS: And the Emmy nominees are…

Although contracts will often be renegotiated before their expiration date, the cast of “Modern Family” took their beef to a new level by going to court to break their current contracts, which still need four seasons to go.

“I don’t remember lawsuits springing from these situations,” said Tony Jonas, a producer and former head ofWarner Bros.Television who had been linked to high-stakes contract negotiations while using casts of “Friends” and “ER.” “Obviously there is a lot of saber rattling taking place.”

Filing a suit may also put 20th Century Fox in the less friendly mood to renegotiate the actors’ deals.

“I’m โดจิน of scare tactics,” said Jeff Gaspin, an ancient chairman of NBC Entertainment.

In the suit, the actors report that their agreements violate California law prohibiting deals that run over seven years. The contracts expire at the end of June 2016, but all were signed before June 2009.

The legal move seemed to be seen as preemptive should the studio sued the actors for breach of contract after most didn’t appear to work Tuesday to get a script reading. The cast, however, is anticipated to become at the reading scheduled for Thursday.

Many were caught by surprise with the turn of events since 20th Century Fox was offering additional money to acquire contract extensions beyond seven seasons.

The latest offer to Vergara, Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell bumped their pay from your roughly $65,000 per episode they made last season to $150,000 for your upcoming season, as outlined by two people familiar with all the matter who have been not authorized to talk publicly. There were also large increases beyond next season. O’Neill, a well established TV star, already makes a lot more than $100,000 per episode, but he too wants a fresh pact.

That the cast is banding together will offer some leverage on the studio.

“There is strength in numbers,” Gaspin said.

Jonas recalled in the event the cast of “Friends” decided to negotiate as a team to putWarner a bind. “That would be a smart move,” Jonas said, as the studio was reluctant to take part in the cast members against the other person. “That’s an incredibly unpleasant thing to do.”

For now, ABC executives are sitting on their hands to determine is employed out. But when a fresh deal is reached, the following point 20th Century Fox is going to do is try to renegotiate the fee that ABC pays to the show.

Despite every one of the vitriol, Grushow thinks there’s an excessive amount of on the line for a new agreement not to get struck soon.

“20th will probably end up paying a lot more than they hoped to, the actors can get lower than their agents told them these folks were worth, where there will likely be hugs and kisses all over at the Emmys,” he predicted.