One persistent fiction about Married at First Sight is that couples do it for money, and/or are essentially bribed to stay together with the promise of a huge stipend: $100,000. It recently popped up in a comment here: “I read that MAFS offers contestants $100,000. So I wonder how many are just in it for the money.”
That is absolutely false.
Let’s start with how ridiculous it is that a show on a small cable network—even that network’s most-popular series—would pay out $600,000 a season—more than Big Brother’s prize.
The claim has no basis in reality, but appears most often on fake news sites, even ones listed in Google News, such as “Realty Today,” the site that falsely reported the show had been cancelled, presumably to get search traffic. Something called “Movie News Guide” said in a story that, “Spoilers for the show are suggesting that the couple received a payment of 1,00,000 USD respectively for participating in the show.” (No, and that’s also not what a spoiler is.)
More reliable sites, such as Inquisitor, have picked up on that, with that site’s story about season three saying, “It was said that David and Ashley will allegedly be paid $100,000 each after the show.” (There are not one but two hedges in that source-less sentence!)
How much MAFS participants are actually paid
The Married at First Sight participants do receive financial compensation for their six weeks on the show, as is standard on most reality series.
Real World creator Jon Murray has compared his show’s stipend to buying a car: “I used to say it was enough to buy a used car. Now it’s probably not quite as big a used car.”
While the actual amount is not public, the MAFS stipend is “way less than a used, used car with a broken engine,” a representative from Kinetic Content told me when I asked about the show’s stipend and referenced Murray’s line.
On MAFS I was told that “the stipend is to cover per diem for time spent filming and any time away from work.”
Back during season one, producer Chris Coelen called it “a nothing stipend. We did not want people who were motivated by the wrong things.”
And to confirm, the stipend is not tied at all to the relationship: “No one receives any money for staying together—all they get from MAFS is the chance at marriage. What they make of that marriage is totally up to them.”