During Big Brother 23’s tedious 90-minute live premiere—after the same visually uninspired competition was repeated four times, and then the producers prevented the team captains from freely choosing their teams by forcing them to choose between two players, and then the offer “they won’t be able to refuse” was refused—Big Brother host Julie Chen Moonves announced the show’s new prize amount.
CBS had teased this earlier in the day, announcing on social media that BB23 would have “the biggest cash prize in Big Brother history.”
Instead of $500,000, which has been the prize since season 1 in 2000, the winner of BB23 will receive an additional quarter million dollars, awarding a grand total of $750,000 to its winner. That’s a cash prize as usual, not something sketchy like America’s Got Talent’s annuity, which is worth far less than the announced $1 million.
Big Brother adjusted its prize for inflation
It’s kind of funny that CBS didn’t just increase it to $1 million to match its other two legacy reality shows, The Amazing Race and Survivor. Then again, I’m surprised they’re spending more money on the show, since I doubt the increased prize money will affect viewership.
And the increase CBS has just about adjusted Big Brother’s prize for inflation. $500,000 in 2000, the year the show premiered, would “[have] the same buying power as” $778,920.72 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.
This is the first broadcast network reality show to increase its prize. While Survivor doubled its $1 million prize for season 40, that was special for the all-winners season, and the prize isn’t changing to $2 million for future seasons. Amazing Race once offered $2 million but didn’t actually pay it out.
Adjusted for inflation, Survivor’s prize would be just over $1.5 million today. That wasn’t the biggest prize in broadcast TV history: that record belongs to Fox’s short-lived The X Factor, which gave its winner $5 million over five years.
Top Chef has increased its prize several times. It started at $100,000, and went to $125,000 in season six. The all-star season had a $200,000 prize, but then it reverted back to $125,000 until Top Chef All-Stars LA’s, whose winner received $250,000, as did Top Chef Portland‘s winner.
While many competition shows have had the same prize throughout their history, some have made adjustments. For season four, RuPaul’s Drag Race increased its prize during its first three seasons: it went from $20,000 to $25,000 to $75,000, and then shifted to $100,000 for season four. It remains there today.
For season 30, MTV’s The Challenge increased its prize to $1 million, though that is split among the winners, leading to winners who’ve received different amounts across one or more seasons. One early competition, The Mole, had a variable prize that depended upon how well its players did in their challenges.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the changes in Drag Race’s prize in its early seasons.