Skip to Content

Do Amazing Race teams get paid if their season hasn’t aired? What about Survivor and Big Brother?

Do Amazing Race teams get paid if their season hasn’t aired? What about Survivor and Big Brother?
Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan waiting for the first team to arrive during the finale of The Amazing Race 31, which aired its finale about a year after production ended. (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/CBS)

The Amazing Race 33 recently stopped filming and its future is uncertain. Meanwhile, CBS has yet to schedule The Amazing Race season 32—which filmed in late 2018. Its producers are hopeful TAR 32 will air this year, perhaps in the summer, but even if it does, that means almost two years will have elapsed between the time when it filmed and when the finale airs.

That’s raised a question: What happens to the million-dollar prize for team that won season 32? What about the consolation prizes for all the other teams? Have they already been paid? Or do they have to wait until the show airs? Is the same as what happens with other CBS reality show contestants, specifically Big Brother and Survivor? I have answers directly from an Amazing Race cast member.

First, let’s look at the gap between production and airing for the past six seasons—five that have aired, plus TAR 32. A few seasons have had gaps of between three and five months between the conclusion of filming and the finale, which seems reasonable, while others have had almost a year elapse:

  • Amazing Race 32: filmed Nov. 10 to Dec. 3, 2018, has not yet premiered
  • Amazing Race 31: filmed June 10 to July 23, 2018, aired April 17 to June 26, 2019
  • Amazing Race 30: filmed Oct. 1 to 14, 2017, aired Jan. 23 to Feb. 21, 2018
  • Amazing Race 29: filmed June 10 to July 2, 2016, aired March 30 to June 1, 2017
  • Amazing Race 28: filmed Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, 2015, aired Feb. 12 to March 13, 2016
  • Amazing Race 27: filmed June 22 to July 14, 2014, aired Sept. 25 to Dec. 11, 2015

Survivor, which films its two seasons in the spring and early summer, typically has a gap of roughly eight to 10 months between the conclusion of filming and its finale:

  • Survivor: Island of the Idols, season 39, concluded filming April 28, 2019, and aired its finale on Dec. 18 of that year.
  • Survivor: Winners at War, season 40, concluded filming June 29, 2019, and will probably air its finale on May 13 or 20.

So how does that gap affect pay?

The Amazing Race’s contract hasn’t been leaked or published anywhere, but I’ve published and reported on the cast contracts for two other big CBS reality competitions, Big Brother and Survivor, both of which offer clues and information.

And I’ve confirmed with a recent Amazing Race cast member that the contracts are essentially identical when it comes to this particular issue.

Amazing Race 31 winners Colin Guinn and Christie Woods, with host Phil Keoghan at the final mat.
Amazing Race 31 winners Colin Guinn and Christie Woods, with host Phil Keoghan at the final mat. (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/CBS)

First, the Big Brother houseguest contract says:

“The Prize and such consolation prizes (if any) may, in Producer’s sole discretion, be contingent upon all episodes of the Episode Cycle in which I appear (if selected as a participant) actually being broadcast and awarded only after such initial broadcast of the last episode of such Episode Cycle.”

And the Survivor contestant contract says this, on page four:

“The award of the [$1 million] Prize may, in Producer’s sole discretion, be contingent upon the Episode Cycle in which I may participate actually being broadcast and shall be awarded only after the broadcast of the finale episode of the that [sic] cycle of the Series in which the winner of the Prize is announced.”

That tells us two things: One, the winners don’t get paid until after the finale is broadcast, and two, if the show isn’t broadcast, no prize is awarded.

For Big Brother, this is basically not a problem, because the show airs in near-real time, and the finale is broadcast live. That means if there’s a final vote with the jury of former houseguests and the winner is announced, that winner’s finale has been broadcast, so they can get paid immediately.

But Survivor or Amazing Race winners whose season airs some time after filming have to wait for their pay.

Worse, if their season is never broadcast, they would not get paid.

This is not just about winners, either. Here’s the Survivor contract, page five:

“Producer may, in its sole discretion, give consolation cash prizes to each contestant based on the order of each contestant’s elimination (ranging in amount in Producer’s sole discretion from approximately $2,500 for the first contestant eliminated from the Series to approximately $100,000 for the runner-up to the winner of the Prize), but has no obligation to do so … Such consolation prizes (if any) may, in Producer’s sole discretion, be contingent upon the Episode Cycle in which I may participate actually being broadcast and be awarded only after the broadcast of the final episode of that cycle of the Series in which the winner of the prize is announced.”

In other words: Everyone has to wait until the finale is broadcast to receive their prize.

Again, this language is from Survivor, but I talked with a recent Amazing Race cast member whose season had a significant gap between filming and airing, and confirmed that the TAR contract says the same thing. That person’s entire cast, winners to the first team out, had to wait until the finale was broadcast to receive their checks.

That means the cast of The Amazing Race 32 has not yet been paid, and will not be until the entire series airs. So not only can they not talk about what happened on the show, they’ve also taken weeks away from work and families and don’t have a dime to show for it.

And if, for some reason, CBS decided not to air TAR 32—which is highly unlikely, since it’s already produced, and since they’re filming a new season now—that’d mean that none of the teams, including the winning team, would have to be paid. Of course, CBS could still opt to pay those contestants, but they are not contractually obligated to do so.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion

I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!