The Business of Reality TV

Story by Terry Shropshire, Danielle Canada and DeWayne Rogers

In our ongoing conversation concerning reality television, we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the elephant in the room:
Reality television is big business.

So much so, that it continues to threaten the existence of the television that we grew up on — you know, where sitcoms and scripted dramas ruled the day. Nowadays, the drama is still scripted like a bad wrestling show, and it’s dished out to a ravenous viewing audience, but packaged in a box called “reality.”

And while the general public continues to gorge on this processed, trans-fat laden form of entertainment, the pockets of the stars in question continue to swell.
Well, some of them.

While the average reality personality makes about $5,000 per month, there are others who make that in the blink of an eye. Yes, there is true class warfare going on in the reality world, and it’s time we took a closer look at the Haves and the Have-nots in this ever-changing economic landscape of reality television.

The Haves

La La Anthony
Alani “La La” Anthony has been a self-starter from day one. After paying her dues on the radio, La La would get her big break as the co-host of “Total Request Live.” Now she’s raking in the big bucks as the star of her own reality show “La La’s Full Court Life,” which chronicles her experiences in New York with her NBA superstar husband, Carmelo Anthony. Add on her other business ventures that include her very own makeup line, and La La’s estimated worth is $9 million.

Randy Jackson
Forty million dollars. That’s the number that you should be thinking when attempting to calculate the net worth of this “American Idol” stalwart. But it’s not just his hosting duties that led to his accumulation of wealth. In 2008, Jackson delved into TV production as the executive producer for MTV’s popular dance competition, “Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew.”

Shaunie O’Neal
Sure, she stills bears the last name of her former husband, Shaquille O’Neal. But what’s most impressive about Shaunie O’Neal is that she has pushed past the ex-wife label to carve out a successful niche as a television producer. From the creation and subsequent success of “VH1’s Basketball Wives,” to a slew of other ventures, including her own shoe line with Chinese Laundry, O’Neal’s net worth has now ballooned to an estimated $35 million.

Mona Scott-Young
Whether or not you agree with the content of her shows, Mona Scott-Young is a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. While she burst onto the scene under her own steam, managing the careers of Missy Elliott, 50 Cent and others, Scott-Young is now recognized for her exploits through her production company, Monami Entertainment. Scott-Young’s company is responsible for the “Love & Hip Hop” franchise on VH1, which plays a large role in her $30 million net worth.

Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth
It would be incorrect to assume that Omarosa’s first brush with success came as a direct result of her villainous persona on reality TV. Long before she became a household name thanks to her stint on  “The Apprentice,” Omarosa was a successful mover-and-shaker in the nation’s capital, once serving under President Bill Clinton. Now, she balances both worlds to the tune of an estimated net worth of  $1.5 million.

A Closer Look at the Highest Earning Reality Stars
While the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” might think they’re very, very rich, when it comes to reality show salaries, some of them are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Readers’ jaws dropped when they learned that NeNe Leakes makes $750,000 per season, however, that is small change compared to how much some of television’s biggest stars make for being themselves or sitting behind a judge’s bench. Let’s take a look at some of the highest earners in the reality show world who put Atlanta’s “Housewives” to shame.
• The Kardashians earned a reported $65 million from their reality show, perfumes and book deals. Kim reportedly made $6 million alone off the hit show.
• Snooki and her “Jersey Shore” cast mates made a reported $100,000 per episode with each season averaging around 13 episodes. The pint-sized Guidette is also pulling in extra cash through appearances that earn her around $20,000, including one at Rutgers University that netted $32,000.
• Bethenny Frankel is by far the highest paid “Real” housewife. The former star of the New York franchise raked in $120 million when she sold her Skinnygirl cocktail line to Beam Global.
• Can you believe Judge Judy makes an estimated $45 million per year? The reality show judge made five times as much as Ellen DeGeneres in 2010.
• Before leaving his singing reality show “American Idol,” Simon Cowell raked in between $45 million to $100 million per season.
• The Situation reportedly earned roughly $5 million when “Jersey Shore was most popular in 2010. That hefty amount stemmed from a book deal, workout supplement and a vodka endorsement. He also appeared on “Dancing With the Stars” where celebs make an estimated $150,000 for the first six weeks of rehearsals, and increments therafter for each week they survive.
• Donald Trump reportedly makes $100,000 per episode on his “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show. The last season of the apprentice had 12 episodes.
• In their glory days, Jon and Kate Gosselin showed off their eight kids while making $90,000 per episode. On season five, the couple filmed 31 episodes of “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” Kate went on to earn $225,000 per episode for her ‘”Kate Plus 8” spin-off.

The End of the Road: Reality Stars Whose Brand Failed to Catch On
We know the following people have a future. We just don’t know what that future is. And, chances are, neither do they. Unlike the previously discussed reality TV stars, the following personalities failed to parlay that national TV audience into other revenue-generating ventures that would provide residual income into the future. Which is sad, especially since some of them seemed like they were headed toward real Hollywood stardom.

Because of bad business deals, supreme arrogance, a cancerous personality and a prima donna mentality, T.O. now has no NFL, no second-rate indoor football league, no home and no future in reality TV. And, to top it off, he was made to look like a jackass on national TV when he agreed to face three of his four babies mamas on “Dr. Phil.” I’d be crying too.

Flavor Flav
If Flavor Flav’s role as a clownish hype man in arguably the most revolutionary musical helped to water down Public Enemy’s ferocious messages to digestible levels for radio and BET, then so be it. But that doesn’t explain why he kept getting his own show. He obviously has barely enough brainpower to keep his head up. And now, he is not only at a dead end, he might be locked in if he can’t come up with some quick, thick stacks to satisfy his debt for unpaid child support.

Ray J
Rumor has it that Brandy’s little brother was trying to pull at Whitney Houston’s purse strings in order to buy Hollywood’s interest in another reality show featuring the non-rapping sex tape star. Hey, why not? Bobby Brown did it. But, we doubt that anyone will put on another mindless reality show like “For the Love of Ray J.”

Bobby Brown
Speaking of Bobby, we are happy that he has long since mended the fences with the bandmates, New Edition, who helped make him famous 30 years ago. But Brown’s one and only reality show would not have gotten off the ground or even gotten a sniff of interest had it not been for the Queen of Pop, Whitney Houston (RIP). Without her, there won’t be another reality show.

Sheree Whitfield
She says she quit. Bravo said she got fired. Either way, Sheree has more time to devote to Chateau Sheree. In related news, scientists found the bones of prehistoric dinosaurs underneath Peachtree Street in Atlanta.

Real and Chance
How did this dysfunctional and illiterate pair get on TV, and how did they get a second season? Thank goodness few even remember them from the ‘90s.

Tami Roman
Tami shut down her Twitter account because the infamous bully couldn’t take a dose of her own medicine. And guess what else will probably be shut down? Her reality show career. If she’s not swinging on somebody, she is just not that interesting.Images Courtesy of Steed Media Service


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