Survivor Season 45 and still "just" $1 million?! (2024)

Back in 2000, the first season of Survivor sparked the reality television revolution. And in August that year, winner Richard Hatch walked away with $1 million. Fast forward, and February 2024 saw the launch of the (ongoing) 46th season, with the winner set to go home with (checks notes) … um, still $1 million?

It’s not worthless, but it’s certainly worth less. If Survivor’s prize money had merely kept pace with inflation to hold the same buying power as back in 2000, it would have to be set at $1 820 836.24 in 2024. To put it in perspective, here’s how some median cost of living prices have changed between 2000 and 2024

  • House: $137 200 to $405 615
  • Rent: $600 to $2 000
  • College education: $3 300 to $12 000
  • Raising a child to the age of 17: $117 390 to $306 924
  • Movie ticket: $5.39 to $10.78

Perhaps $1 820 836.24 just doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as “one million dollars”. And while Survivor’s parent company CBS has remained tight-lipped about prize money negotiations over the years, we’ve spotted five reasons it could be “just” a million yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Watch the trailer for Survivor S45

Binge Survivor Season 45 on Showmax now.

1. Everyone’s obsessed

Survivor Season 45 and still "just" $1 million?! (1)

Once upon a time more than half the cast per season was made up of people approached by Survivor’s staff, or drawn from audition tapes for sister reality series like Big Brother and The Amazing Race. But ever since Survivor parted ways with its original casting director Lynne Spillman in 2018, the show has stopped recruiting contestants.

The Castaways are now drawn from online applications and videos only. Survivor Season 45 (which was cast simultaneously with Season 46) had just 18 positions for castaways open and 25 000 videos on the table, of which 18 000 were submitted after casting on the previous season closed. Apparently a “measly million” isn’t stopping our obsession. Many people apply multiple times, even when they aren’t eligible. Season 45 Survivor castaway Brandon Donlon admits that he started sending in audition tapes when he was just 11 years old.

2. It’s not about the money

Survivor Season 45 and still "just" $1 million?! (2)

Taking part in Survivor is a privilege, as the time commitment alone is a massive luxury that few can afford. Survivor hopefuls endure multiple audition interviews, training at Survivor School, and physical and psychological exams before even reaching the shooting location in Fiji. They need to prepare to be away from home, family and work for a minimum of 26 days, even if they return earlier. And while the show days pay a minimal “salary” (the longer you stay, the more you get paid), all prizes and cash are paid out only after the show is on air, so you won’t come home with any cash to fill the gaps.

Most of the castaways see Survivor as the adventure of a lifetime and a personal challenge. Season 43 winner Mike Gabler even pledged to donate his entire $1 million prize to veterans. And for all the LA_based “bartenders” and “entrepreneurs” looking to break into the entertainment industry, the real prize is the kind of exposure that hasn’t lost its shine.

3. Ratings and advertising

Survivor Season 45 and still "just" $1 million?! (3)

Survivor launched seven years before the dawn of the streaming era. By its second season, the series was able to keep offering that massive prize, knowing that they’d be able to lure in advertiser sponsorship and sell airtime during a show that had over 51 million people watching the finale together, and an estimated 125 million showing up to catch parts of it. That’s not the market now.

Not only have advertisers trickled away from linear TV to spend their dollars on social media and across multiple platforms, Survivor itself can’t promise the same number of eyes on the prize. In the US, Season 45 pulled in more than 6 million viewers per episode across the season – even though the finale was the most live-streamed entertainment show on the Paramount Plus platform, and viewership had increased by nearly 20% from the previous season.

4. Viewers don’t care

Neither the viewers whose eyes were locked into the first finale, nor the latest fans cheering on their favourites at the end of Season 45, were there for the prize money. There’s no official Survivor after-show to follow that lets us see how the money changes lives for the show’s winners and runners up. In the eyes of fans, winning itself is the prize. What we’re really there for is the journey, the strategy, and the impressive feats of physical strength, endurance and skill.

5. … And this one will shock you!

The number one reason that prize money isn’t increasing might be because nobody who matters is asking … or offering!

Survivor Season 45 and still "just" $1 million?! (4)

During an Entertainment Weekly interview, Survivor host Jeff Probst discussed the decision to double the prize to $2 million for the all-stars season, Winners at War (Season 40, in 2020). But Jeff let slip something telling. He revealed that then-CBS President of Entertainment Kelly Khal was the one who suggested giving the winner more money, and set the prize at $2 million.

Jeff, who takes home an estimated $4 million per season (this estimate goes as high as $8 million on some platforms) as a high level producer and showrunner on the series, admits that Kelly was absolutely astounded when Jeff told him that he didn’t think the extra million would make any difference, since everyone would still say yes to being on the show anyway. In Jeff’s defence, it wasn’t as if he was there to fight for his own salary increase!

Go forth and think about what you could do with $1 million as you binge Survivor Season 45 on Showmax now.

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Survivor Season 45 and still "just" $1 million?! (2024)


Why is Survivor still only a million dollars? ›

Rubino said that with the advent of streaming, it's become harder for reality TV show budgets to support bigger prizes, and with not much payoff since it wouldn't mean greater audience numbers. “You'll still get the same amount of viewership if you call something a million-dollar show,” Rubino said.

Does the jury on Survivor get paid? ›

But in an interview with TMZ, Jonny Fairplay spilled the beans on how much castaways allegedly make: the first person eliminated can make $12,500, according to the infamous villain, who noted jury members get $40,000.

How much money do Survivor winners actually get? ›

The third-place winner can tack on an additional $85,000 (before taxes), with the second-place adding an extra $100,000. And, as previously mentioned, the first-place winner walks away with the $1,000,000 cash prize.

Does second place on Survivor get any money? ›

According to Cinema Blend, second-place winners on regular Survivor seasons walk away with $100,000. It's a far cry from a cool $1 million, but it's still more money than one might make at your typical 9-to-5. Even third place takes home $85,000, which is still some decent cash.

Who is the richest person ever to be on Survivor? ›

David Samson

By far, David Samson is the richest alum from the show. The exec previously launched a news distribution company and worked for Morgan Stanley, before becoming a Montreal Expos executive VP. He then purchased the Miami Marlins alongside his stepfather, becoming the president until 2017.

Did Survivor winner really donate his winnings? ›

Then, for added emphasis, he opted to donate every penny of his $1 million prize to Veteran charities, establishing himself as the first contestant on the show to give their winnings—even a portion—to charities. Mike Gabler with his parents, Bob and Joan Gabler. Bob Gabler served as a Green Beret in the Army Reserves.

What do Survivor jury members do all day? ›

On Survivor, when eventual jury members are voted out, they are sent to a group living situation called Ponderosa. As they arrive one by one, they discuss the ins and outs of what has transpired, sharing information — and often bonding for or against certain players still in the game.

Do you get paid if you lose Survivor? ›

Here is a breakdown of the payments received by the contestants: First Place: The winner of Survivor receives a grand prize of $1,000,000 [1]. Second Place: The second-place contestant typically receives a consolation prize of $100,000 [2]. Third Place: The third-place contestant is awarded $85,000 [2].

Is Jeff Probst married? ›

Probst married his second wife, Lisa Ann Russell, on December 5, 2011. Through this marriage, Probst is a stepfather to Russell's two children, son Michael (b. 2004) and daughter Ava (b. 2006), from her former marriage to actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

Can you bring medication on Survivor? ›

"Certain items are allowed such as contacts, feminine products, and specific approved medications," the producers reveal. "We also give them a daily multi-vitamin, but nothing in the way of personal hygiene."

Can you brush your teeth on Survivor? ›

Otherwise, they're on their own. Contestants don't get razors, toothbrushes, or other conveniences, so if they have bright white teeth or aren't growing body hair, it may be because of tooth whitening or laser hair removal they had done before they left for the show.

Do Survivor contestants get food? ›

Survivor cast members are provided daily rations of rice and beans, but they must decide how much or how little to eat of these rations. They can also eat anything they catch or forage on their beach — such as crabs, fish, papayas and coconuts.

How much do losers get paid on Survivor? ›

But castaways who fail to win their season can still make a big chunk of change. For instance, the second place castaway in any given survivor is typically given a whopping $100,000. While this is before taxes, it's a substantial consolation prize. Similarly, the third place contestant makes $85,000.

How long are Survivor contestants away from home? ›

He called this "a big deal" because he might not have been able to get around the island with it. For more details, read 'Survivor' players reveal how the show chooses their only outfit and what it's like wearing it for up to 39 days.

What do the top 3 survivors win? ›

The winner of Survivor takes home a $1 million prize. The second place finisher receives $100000, and the third and fourth place finishers receive $85000 each. All of the contestants also receive a stipend for their time on the show, which is typically around $1000 per week.

What do losing Survivor contestants get paid? ›

According to former contestant Jonny FairPlay, the first person eliminated receives $2,500 for their time, and the longer someone lasts on the show, the more money they receive upon exiting.

Do you get money if you don't win Survivor? ›

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.

Is Survivor still successful? ›

As television viewership in general has declined over the years, ratings for “Survivor” have largely weathered the storm, finding success with younger audiences. Having first aired in 2000, the series helped inaugurate an era of reality TV, and has managed to remain a fan favorite among U.S. audiences.

How much money has the host of Survivor made? ›

Probst reportedly earns $200,000 per episode, according to Distractify. The average number of episodes per season of the show is 14, which equals $7 million for each new season. Celebrity Net Worth reports that he takes home $8 million per year.

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