The Real Story Behind America's Got Talent $1 Million Prize

americas got talent season 14
(Image credit: NBC)

America's Got Talent Season 14 was stacked with so many skilled acts that it was difficult to predict who would make it to the final episode. That said, 23-year-old singer and pianist Kodi Lee seemed to have an edge from his very first performance, and arguably the biggest question heading into the finale was whether anybody could actually beat him.

As it turns out? Nope! Kodi Lee, who is also blind and autistic, was the winner of Season 14. He beat all the kid acts and gets $1 million and a show to headline in Las Vegas! Well, sort of.

One of the big draws that raises the stakes of America's Got Talent is that the show always touts the $1 million grand prize, which viewers (who got some big surprises out of the Season 14 finale) would naturally take to assume that winners would become millionaires due to their victory. That's not actually the case.

The $1 million prize isn't exactly awarded via giant check under a shower of confetti, but rather over a span of years or in one lump sum, and neither option will result in a winner becoming a millionaire without maximizing on their AGT fame to rake in the big bucks elsewhere.

It's not exactly a secret that AGT doesn't just shell out $1 million at the end of each season. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed a disclaimer that is included at the end of episodes explaining the not-so-glamorous fine print of the $1 million grand prize. Take a look:

Yes, the grand prize totaling $1 million is "payable in a financial annuity over forty years" or in a lump sum of the "present cash value of such annuity." Contestants are informed from the beginning that they won't be taking home $1 million if they win America's Got Talent, so at least it wouldn't have been a rotten surprise for Kodi Lee and his mom after he won the top prize.

Now, the actual totals per year or the lump sum depend on taxes. The lump sum would be considerably less than a cool million, according to Forbes, before taxes. The total would almost certainly be less than half a million before taxes can even be deducted.

As for the annuity over four decades, winners would receive $25,000 annually before taxes. As with the lump sum, taxes could result in the actual money taken home being significantly lower, even if the total is larger than the lump sum in the long run.

Winners who choose to take the 40-year annuity would likely need outside jobs or to make it big based on their AGT fame. The lump sum would presumably sustain winners for a time without an outside job, but not guarantee income in the future. If Season 14 champion Kodi Lee takes the 40-year option, he'll be in his 60s before the America's Got Talent payments are complete.

Whichever option Kodi Lee and his mom choose, I'm sure he'll have the resources to fulfill his dreams of having "a grand piano in every color." I'm also confident that receiving less than $1 million isn't going to stop thousands upon thousands of talented (and somewhat less talented, although I am still strangely fond of Caterpillar Man and his even more bizarre return) people taking the stage in front of the judges to try and become the next champion.

America's Got Talent is over for now, but there are still plenty of viewing options coming to NBC and the rest of the networks now that fall TV season is soon to get into full swing. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to help plan when you can watch what you want to watch.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).