Revealed: How much contestants are paid on reality TV
It is the topic no one in the TV industry wants to talk about publicly.
Who earns what on reality television is a tightly guarded secret of production companies and television networks alike, just are the pay packets of actors on our favourite shows.
They don't want us to know because it breaks down that third wall and while it is reality TV, we all know there's very little reality involved with many of the shows scripted and manipulated to garner the best juicy storylines for ratings.
It is also a secret because producers don't want the drama of one reality star complaining they earn less than another.
Reality shows can be broken into two main categories, those starring unknowns and those featuring celebrities. There are exceptions with familiar faces often popping up on shows and of course the increasingly popular 'all-star' formats where contestants from previous seasons return for another crack at winning a title.
In general, unknown faces appear in shows including Married At First Sight, The Bachelor and Bachelorette, My Kitchen Rules, MasterChef, The Voice, The Block, House Rules, The Amazing Race Australia, Big Brother and Survivor.
Contestants on these shows generally earn a basic stipend or per diem, which on average, works out to be anywhere from $80 to $150 per day or a flat weekly fee to cover at home expenses like rent and bills of $1000. This is generally paid weekly or as a lump-sum payment.
Additionally, catering is provided on set when shooting.
"Technically they don't actually get paid, they get a weekly amount that covers their expenses like their rent and phone and that varies depending on the expenses where they live," one casting director told The Daily Telegraph. "It isn't a lot of money. People are often pretty much willing to do anything for their 15 minutes but of course they are paid something to cover their expenses."
Cast members are signed and contracted to a production company, not the television network that will eventually broadcast the edited product.
In Australia, the key production companies are Fremantle Media, Endemol Shine, Warner Bros, ITV and Eureka.
A former contestant on My Kitchen Rules said: "We were shooting six days a week and we got paid $1000. It isn't good money. They would also give us $200 vouchers for Coles, which covered our groceries to practice our cooking. The $200 definitely didn't even cover those groceries though."
The contestant added: "It isn't usually about money for these people because they know they can earn a lot more cash once they get off the show if they get the right edit. Everyone has a different agenda, whether it is to boost their career or to open a café or restaurant or release a cookbook. Others do it just to be famous of course."
Then there are the celebrity-driven reality shows like Dancing With The Stars and I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!
Here, the threshold for what a contestant can earn is determined by the profile of a celebrity but also by the amount of hype they can deliver a franchise. That is why we see unknown influencers pop up on shows where the mainstream public may have never heard of them but they have a big social media footprint.
Familiar faces returning for all-star versions of shows like MasterChef and contestants on Bachelor In Paradise can also negotiate more cash depending on their profile and what storylines they can bring to the editing suite.
"Any shows with celebrities is a different thing and really depends on their profile and how much producers want them," another television executive said.
An unknown Bachelor or Bachelorette star would earn a minimum per diem wage with some bonuses while a celebrity face in the case of Sophie Monk is rumoured to have scored $250,000 for her stint on The Bachelorette.
Shane Warne is rumoured to have been paid upwards of $1 million for his time in the jungle on I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! while others over the years have been paid just a couple of thousand a week as they are desperate to boost their profiles.
Generally on I'm A Celebrity contestants are paid a base fee with additional cash earnt depending on how far they make it in the competition.
"For the right star, they will pay big dollars," said one agent. "They can't just be a celebrity with a name, they have to have an unpredictable and click-bait factor around them. Others it is a novelty thing where they don't actually earn much money but everyone in Australia knows who they are so they are good for the mix."
Bachelor In Paradise sees contestants from previous seasons of The Bachelor and Bachelorette sent to Fiji for a romantic getaway to find love. Seasoned from previous reality TV appearances, contestants here earn a premium of up to $4000 per week with some exceptions earning slightly more depending on their profile.
"Producers often cast for drama over romance every time," a former Bachelor In Paradise contestant said. "Everyone happy and loved up would make for boring TV. They need some people to stir the pot, obviously the controversial contestants cost more."
Originally published as Revealed: How much contestants are paid on reality TV