Reality Television Salaries

After a long, guilt-ridden marathon of watching MTV’s latest Real World endeavor, the Real World:Skeletons, we started to wonder how much these guys actually make to have a low chance at longevity in Hollywood and to pretty much entirely soil their reputation in.. well, the real world. And of course, that snowballed into a desire to learn about how much EVERYONE makes on every reality television show ever. Here’s what we’ve found.

Reality Television Salaries

1. The Real World

The Real World, a pioneer show from which all reality TV is based on, first aired in 1992 and continues being produced in various forms to date. It has frequently earned titles of major milestones on television, such as having the first openly-gay man with AIDS portrayed in media. For this reason, MTV was able to truly create a show that seemed to exist completely within the realm of reality and was able to grab attention of viewers everywhere.

However, despite its success and staying power, it has become notorious for its terrible contracts and low pay-outs. An average cast-member for The Real World is under contract to not only forfeit essentially all of their individual privacy, but agree to be susceptible to any and all editing all the while acknowledging that MTV is responsible for pretty much nothing that happens. And this all is done for a measly $5,000, plus a requirement to do any reunion special for up to five years after the show for a flat rate of $2500. Any and all other events done for the show are worth $750. We vote: not worth it. Check out the nefarious contract here.

2. TLC’s Breed of Reality Families

TLC is a network that caters to- let us put this frankly- really freaking weird families. Like, the weirdest familial combinations you could ever imagine. And it works out really well for the network, seeing as plenty of their shows are huge successes because clearly Americans enjoy watching really bizarre stuff. So if the network’s a success, the family’s are too, right? Yes, and no.

One of TLC’s strangest and biggest hits, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, indicates that perhaps TLC families don’t do all that great, after all. Some reports claimed that the family only made $2,000-$4,000, but Mama June, the show’s controversial star, literally laughed at that figure. So they probably made a lot more during their run, but that run is over because of some bad decisions Mama June made, so unfortunately they no longer have reality television income, period. Maybe Mama June should look into that $1,000,000 deal to film a sex tape with Sugar Bear…

The train wreck that is Jon and Kate Plus Eight reportedly made the family $22,500 an episode, according to Jon. The show was cancelled after 150 episodes, so we reckon they made millions off their time with TLC. Which they definitely need, because if your unfamiliar with the show, the eight part is the amount of kids they have, six of them being sextuplets. Yeah.

And TLC’s holier-than-you family, the Duggars, who are so religious that they don’t believe in contraception and therefore keep procreating (ew, we know) make a killing. They reportedly make around $25,000-$40,000 an episode, as of right now they have eight seasons and eighteen specials to date, equaling over 206 episodes. At minimum that’s over $5 million accumulated and at most about ten,so we can’t imagine they really need to make their own laundry soap every week out of financial strain.

Anyways, despite our obvious bias and dislike for the Duggar family, just a side note to any producer out there, although we’re positive you’re probably already working on it, you need to get one of those kids on Celebrity Rehab.

3. Already Established B-List Celebrities Doing Reality TV

This happens a lot. B-list celebrities take on well-established reality shows to boost their career, take a break, whatever. And these are the people that, of course, make the most handsome endeavors off “unscripted” television.

Dancing With the Stars contestants have it made. They earn a base salary of $120,000 and then are paid subsequent amounts of cash for making it to the final weeks. Then, if they are the chosen winners, they earn another prize of $100,000.

The Real Housewives of [insert city] also do fairly well. Already having used their wealth to insert themselves firmly into full socialite status, they bring a lot of attention to the Bravo network. Considering this, they can earn up to $500,000 annually to add to their already impressive wealth.

Bottom Line:

Certainly, as reality shows become really, really, successful, paychecks go up. The Jersey Shore cast members went from making liquor money to making life savings in a matter of a couple seasons. By the end, they each were pulling $100,000 per episode. It’s clearly a lot about staying power and, as is the case with most things in life, luck. For more information about reality television exposed, check out this great list of what to expect from filming