Americas 10 Highest-Grossing Reality TV Shows Of All Time

The 1990s were a challenging decade for reality TV as audiences dismissed the genre as irrelevant and dumb, but in 2000, a reality show brought it back to prominence. With the release of Survivor, audiences engaged in watching competitive romances, strategy games, and talent contests that gave rise to superstars. Along with the far reaches of network cable, these shows have also been seen by audiences worldwide through online streaming. While there is resistance from Hollywood to deem reality TV as a viable genre, it has inarguably provided thriller shows that have captivated audiences for more than two decades.

Many factors make shows earn millions, the most crucial part is advertisement revenue. Studios make more than $100,000 for a basic thirty-second TV spot for talent shows, and these figures rise as the series reaches its finale. Through merchandise and product placement deals, networks have made millions. Let’s take a look at the highest-grossing reality shows of all time.

10 Keeping Up With The Kardashians

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When Keeping Up With The Kardashians first aired on television in 2007, it exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. It became the most successful series on E!, bringing in millions of viewers for the twenty seasons. According to Cosmopolitan, the family made $80 million from 2015-2018, and the paycheck was reportedly later renegotiated to $150 million in 2020 until it ran in 2021.

RELATED: 10 Most Memed Moments From Keeping Up With The Kardashians

9 America’s Got Talent

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Not many shows in America offer an open platform to showcase various talents as America’s Got Talent. With judges Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara, and Howie Mandel, the show had 8.8 million average viewers for the 2021 season. It made $32 million in national ad revenue and $41.4 million through online TV spots.

8 The Bachelor

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The Bachelor, Bachelor In Paradise, and The Bachelorette have been stapled reality shows in ABC’s programming lineup since airing in 2002. The factor of dating and seeing a relationship unfold on television has been a curious experience for audiences, generating a sizable revenue. Clocking in an average of 4.5 million viewers, the show makes over $86 million from advertisements.

7 American Idol

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6 Survivor

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Viewers have been keenly watching the survival of the fittest through the reality show Survivor since 2000. Stranded on an island, the last person standing wins the coveted prize worth millions. Survivor averages grossing $80 million per season, but during its peak edition in 2004, the show managed to make $166.6 million for CBS Network.

5 Top Chef

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Top Chef has been a popular culinary reality show for ages. Magical Elves Production created the show for Bravo and first aired in 2006. A consistently top-rated show, it had a panel of distinguished chefs, including Graham Elliot, Gail Simmons, Toby Young, and Ted Allen, with Padma Lakshmi and Katie Lee as presenters. At its peak, the show had a viewership of over 3.2 million.

4 RuPaul’s Drag Race

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Loosely based on America’s Next Top Model to celebrate drag, RuPaul’s Drag Race became a phenomenon since its release in 2009. With 9 Emmy wins, the show has been going strong for 14 seasons. Along with the viewership and ad revenue, the show makes millions from the live shows. As mentioned by BBC, the annual drag expo RuPaul’s DragCon brings in over $9 million in revenue and 40,000 attendees.

3 The Apprentice


The Apprentice was a highly anticipated reality show that judged business skills since 2006. Donald Trump starred in the first fourteen seasons of the show and came to prominence through reality TV. Known for its dramatic episodes and nail-biting finales, at its prime, the show made $2 million from advertisements and had several sponsors backing up, including Crocs, Pedigree, and Kodak.

2 Real Housewives

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Airing on Bravo, the Real Housewives franchise observes the lives of wealthy women in several cities in America, from Atlanta to Beverly Hills. With over 2 million people watching the show, it has generated $162 million in ad revenue from all cities, and the cast makes hefty paychecks, earning upwards of $250,000 per season.

1 The Voice

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Since its premiere in 2011, The Voice has made over $2 billion in advertisement revenue and paid $402 million in salary to the coaches. Blake Shelton makes $13 million per season, Kelly Clarkson has a paycheck of $15 million for each season, and Gwen Stefani also gets $13 million.

Other notable reality shows include America’s Next Top Model, Shark Tank, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race. These shows prove that network reality television produces an entertainment source for audiences everywhere and produces talented artists who go on to have successful careers.


Sources: Cosmopolitan, Hollywood Reporter, BBC

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