Born on July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, Bill Cosby dropped out of college to pursue a career in stand up comedy. After touring extensively and landing a spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1963, Cosby took his comedy to albums, where he won seven consecutive Grammys for his work between 1964-1971. When Cosby moved to television, he became the first black man to star in a lead role in NBC’s 1965 special-agent adventure series, I Spy, according to Biography. Cosby then struck critically and ratings gold with his depiction of an affluent black family in the ’80s seminal hit, The Cosby Show. He became known as “America’s Dad,” amassing a fortune in TV and commercials while projecting a wholesome persona and serving as a positive role model to generations of fans.
However, underneath that persona was a “sexually violent predator” who allegedly drugged and raped 60 women. On Sept. 25, 2018, Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for one of those crimes. Once one of the highest-paid celebrities in the world, his substantial wealth has diminished along with his reputation. Here’s what Bill Cosby’s net worth really is.
During the ’80s, Bill Cosby was the world’s highest-paid entertainer and beloved the world over for his role as Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable on The Cosby Show. The show was such an astronomical success that, according to Forbes, it generated “$4 million an episode when sold into syndication, with reruns generating over $1.5 billion in the last two decades.” And per the Chicago Tribune, Cosby pocketed $166 million from the original syndication deal negotiated by Viacom.
Cosby leveraged his popularity and television success into lucrative TV commercial work, eventually becoming one of the most popular pitchmen of all time. Del Monte, Ford, Crest, Coca-Cola, Kodak, and of course, Jell-O pudding, are just a few of the big-name brands that wanted a piece of the Cosby pie. He was so good at selling Americans products that he was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame in 2011. (The honor was rescinded in May 2018.)
With a mega-hit show and companies lining up for his endorsement, Cosby amassed an estimated net worth of $400 million
During its primetime heyday and in re-runs, The Cosby Show was a staple of network programming and a syndication cash cow for Bill Cosby since its premiere on September 20, 1984. However, after sexual assault allegations against the comedian surfaced in 2014, networks jumped ship. Per ABC News, TV Land stopped airing episodes immediately. Netflix quickly followed suit, scrapping a taped comedy special set to premiere later that year.
And in the wake of his guilty verdict in 2018, that reliable revenue stream Cosby counted on for so long ceased to exist. “Effective immediately, Bounce is removing The Cosby Show from our schedule,” the Atlanta-based network said in a statement the day the verdict was handed down (per The Hollywood Reporter). It got worse from there.
“The Cosby Show is leaving Hulu,” The Hollywood Reporter revealed. “The streaming service has opted to not renew its licensing deal with producers Carsey Werner, and as part of the deal, The Cosby Show will no longer have a streaming platform.” Without a network home or VOD options, THR also pointed out that the only place left to watch episodes of The Cosby Show, at the time of the report, was on Amazon “for $1.99 a shot.”