Big Brother is about to kick off its 21st season. It’s hard to believe that the show has been on for 18 years, but it’s not surprising. The show makes a lot of financial sense to its network as it’s easy to keep production costs for the reality show that features 16 or so strangers sequestered in a house out near the airport in Los Angeles. The talent isn’t free though. The contestants are paid, win or lose, when they compete on the show.
Everyone in the cast makes some money, and obviously some players – notably the winner – make a whole lot more. The Celebrity version of Big Brother, which kicked off in the winter of 2018 and has run for two seasons, works a little differently, but they are paid as well. So let's crunch the numbers.
How Much Do Big Brother Houseguests Make Per Week?
Big Brother makes a big ask of the contestants by having him quit regular life completely and sequester themselves in the Big Brother House for about three months. They have no contact with the outside world, save for host Julie Chen and the occasional airplane flyby above the house. People often leave jobs and give up their pay for the time they are on the show and while many similar shows don’t pay the contestants a weekly stipend, Big Brother does.
It’s not a ton of money, but it’s not nothing. All the contestants earn $1,000 a week while they are on the show. This includes all the members of the jury, who stay sequestered, but in another location. If a player is eliminated before the jury forms, they stop receiving the stipend. This stipend gets paid out to all the players at the conclusion of the season.
A typical Big Brother season lasts 13 weeks, so at a minimum, each player that makes to the end either while still in the game or as a part of the jury earns at least $13,000. No one is going to get rich playing with that kind of pay, but they will probably be able to keep up with bills and the basics while they spend their summer behind the walls of the house.
The contestants on Celebrity Big Brother don’t earn the weekly stipend, but they do receive a nice little check for $250,000. It’s also thought that some contestants have made more, but that’s unconfirmed.
How Much Can Big Brother Houseguests Win?
While everyone on Big Brother earns that $1,000 per week stipend, there are a few ways to make a whole lot more. The winner of each season takes home a cool $500,000, before taxes.
From there, it’s a steep drop off, but the runner-up still takes home $50,000 and the winner of America’s Favorite Player, which is decided by an online vote from fans also takes up a nice $25,000 check. It should be noted that the winner, the runner up and America’s Favorite Player do NOT receive the stipend at the end of the season, as they take home their prize money instead.
Then there are also cash prizes in some of the games. Throughout the seasons, the contestants participate in number of games, like the game that determines the Head Of Household, the Power Of Veto competition, as well games to determine the Have-Nots and now the Battle Of The Block competition and the sometimes a Battle Back, giving evicted guests a chance to return to the game. Often in these games, there will be opportunities for Houseguests to win prizes, like vacations and cash prizes. These change from season to season.
The winner of Celebrity Big Brother takes home less than a winner of a regular season; half as much, in fact: $250,000. But combined with the $250K signing bonus each celebrity gets to play, it’s still a nice payday for the winner.
How Has The Weekly Stipend Changed?
For the first 18 seasons of Big Brother, the weekly stipend for players on Big Brother was only $750, but before season 19, it was increased to the current $1,000. The payout for winners has not changed since the beginning.
There has been some theories put forth by fans that some of the contestants on more recent seasons haven’t been motivated enough by the money and have wondered if CBS should increase the prize money, as they have the stipend, but other fans don’t think it would make a huge difference if the prize was increased to $750K or even a million dollars, like its sister show Survivor.
The truth is that it probably doesn’t matter when it comes to recruiting. The show still gets thousands of applicants hope to take down that $500K prize.
How Much Does Julie Chen Earn As The Host Of Big Brother?
For all 20 seasons, both celebrity seasons and the upcoming 21st season of Big Brother, Julie Chen has been the host. It’s hard to find anything definitive on what she makes as the host, though it was leaked that she took a paycut for the shorter Celebrity Big Brother seasons, which run about half as long as regular seasons.
It’s also safe to assume that between her and her very wealthy husband, Julie Chen’s bank account is doing just fine. Moonves’ net worth is thought to be in the $700-million-dollar range.
One interesting thing to note: it’s thought by many fans that the person who has won the most money on a single season of Big Brother was Season 16 winner, Derrick Levasseur. The police officer-turned-Big Brother-champion not only won the $500K for coming out on top, but also won $25K as America’s Favorite Player and another $5K in a competition earlier in the season. Not a bad way to spend a summer if you can win it!
Big Brother Season 21 premieres June 25 on CBS!