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'Survivor' Contestants Make a Bunch of Money Even if They *Don’t* Win

Abi Travis - Author

Mar. 9 2020, Updated 6:19 p.m. ET

Everyone who competes on Survivor wants the same thing: to win! There are plenty of reasons why (fame, bragging rights, etc.), but the big one is obviously money. Who wouldn’t want $1 million hanging out in their bank account? For Season 40 (Winners at War), the stakes are even higher because the prize is actually $2 million! But what you may not know is that winning the game isn’t the only way to bring home some cold, hard cash. Do Survivor contestants get paid? You bet they do!

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How much do ‘Survivor’ contestants get paid?

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that anyone who competes on Survivor gets paid for it. After all, they’re appearing on television. They legally have to be paid for that. The big bucks go to the winner (obvs), but the runners-up also get a handsome handout at the end of the season. 

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According to ABC News, Kelly Wiglesworth (the runner-up in Season 1) got a check for $100,000 for coming in second (Richard Hatch, of course, got the $1 million prize... and then eventually went to prison for not paying taxes on that money.) But the other players of that first season didn’t go home empty-handed. They were each paid according to how long they stayed on the show. So Sonja, the first tribe member (ever!) voted off the island, received $2,500, and Rudy (who came in third) got $85,000. 

These days, there are three contestants left at the end of the season instead of two. According to Fortune, the two runners-up each receive $110,000, but still, everyone is paid something. As long as you make it to the jury, you’re guaranteed a pretty penny by the end of the season. Although we certainly wouldn’t scoff at making $2,500 for a single day’s work either.

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This season of ‘Survivor’ is probably the most expensive one ever.

In addition to the $2 million prize, this season also makes use of the controversial Edge of Extinction — a separate island where players can remain after being voted out of their tribe. While on Edge of Extinction, eliminated players can compete for fire tokens and a possible chance to get back into the game.

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In fact, in Season 38: Edge of Extinction, contestant Chris Underwood spent almost the entire season on EoE and eventually came back to win the whole enchilada. Anyway, Edge of Extinction means that the contestants are on the show even after they’ve been voted off, which in turn means they must be compensated. And the fact that everyone on Season 40 is already at least mildly famous means that they’re probably not settling for the same fees that unknown players from previous seasons did. 

And then there’s the Sia money — for the past few years, Sia (as in, the singer) has awarded various amounts of money to her favorite players in each season. Just because she’s amazing. So yeah, appearing on Survivor — especially as a fan favorite — certainly has a lot of benefits even if you don’t win the game.

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