So today I read an interesting news report via Michael Musto in the Village Voice about Logo’s new reality show, The A List: New York. The story – apparently the stars of the network’s new docu-soap will be receiving the princely fee of $1,250 EACH for the entire series. Yep, you read that right. That’s just over $200 per show for a standard 6 episode run. Hmm, is McDonalds hiring?

Now in case you don’t know the show, The A List is a key series for the newly re-invigorated Logo, following their success with flamboyant competition series, RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s kind of like The Real Housewives with gays, and will include semi-celebrity, Reichen Lehmkuhl (won Amazing Race season 4, used to date Lance Bass, very hot!), Rodiney Santiago (Reichen’s current boyfriend) photographer Mike Ruiz (often featured on Drag Race, big muscles, takes his shirt off a lot), hair salon owner Ryan Nikulas and modeling agent, Derek Lloyd Saathoff. Given the title and the network I think we can expect lots of dating, buff boys at circuit parties, bitchy brunches and faux-fabulous lifestyles. It’s not really my kind of show, but people lap up the Real Housewives and I’m sure it’ll do well. Good luck to them!

But back to the subject of money! Now first of all who knows if this story is true or not. Gays are not exactly the most discreet of people and I’m sure there are many out there who didn’t make the casting of the show who’d love to bitch about how crap and cheap the whole production is. So I take these figures with an extreme grain of salt!

But the fact is Logo isn’t a big network and just wouldn’t have the budget to pay their talent large fees anyway. Maybe they’re not paying their cast $1,250 for the series – but I can promise you it isn’t a huge amount more. But when people hear the word ‘TV’ their eyes instantly light up and they think there’s money involved! Well guess what people – there really isn’t. And you know what – I don’t have a big problem with this.

Whenever I meet potential talent in connection with a possible reality show, one of the first things I tell them is that they’re NOT going to get rich from the show. Maybe one day down the line they will make good money. But not at the start.

The standard arrangement is that talent for a reality show is paid some form of ‘access fee’ as part of their participation in a show. Now this varies from network to network and depends on how large the cast is, how key to the show they are, and how many episodes are involved. Obviously a show following a couple running a restaurant can afford to pay a higher access fee per person than a show following 6 gay friends in New York, especially when the latter have been specifically cast for the project and can be replaced literally overnight.

As I tell people all the time – the real value of doing a show is the publicity the show could generate for your business – or yourself. You’re basically getting a free advert.

For example, I live in Hoboken, New Jersey, just up the road from Carlo’s Bake Shop – the setting for TLC’s breakout smash Cake Boss. And on Saturdays and Sundays the lines outside that store are 30-40 people long, at all times, come rain or come shine. Trust me – I’ve seen the tourists huddled under umbrellas in torrential rain, desperate to get inside and meet Buddy and the gang!

Now obviously increased business for the Cake Boss is a good incentive to take part in a show – but that’s not all that’s at stake. The show is now on its third series, and I can bet you Buddy and co are on a better rate now than they were two seasons back! Plus TLC will soon be launching spin-off series Cake Boss College, Buddy recently baked a cake for the 10th anniversary of Oprah’s O magazine, among numerous other media appearances, and I can assure you that cook books and signature baking products will all be following down the line.

So Buddy is striking it rich. But it could have gone the other way. What if Cake Boss had been a flop, sinking after just one season on the air? Who put up the money for the show and would take the hit? Exactly. The network. The talent may not make a fortune early on if the show does well, but they’re also absolved of the financial risk.

Now the fact is it’s not cheap to make a TV show. Even a bargain basement cable series is easily 200K per episode. Sounds a lot – but when you figure out how much it’s going to cost to shoot, edit and produce that puppy, the money disappears fast. And the production company making the show deserve to make some decent money too, because trust me they’re the ones putting in the hours and the real blood, sweat and tears. If I’m working until 3am in the morning editing a show I darn well better not be earning less than the ‘talent’ who’s about to get an hour of free publicity for their business each week, a lavish poster campaign, a media tour – and the potential to earn big bucks down the line!

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to see anyone get exploited. And there is undoubtedly a lot of wastage and free spending in TV at times (I’ll save that for a future posting). But when I read a story about poor reality show ‘talent’ being given crappy deals I always take a beat before assuming they’re being ripped off. I’m sure Kate Gosselin, The Situation and Omarosa are perfectly happy with the cash they’ve made along the way… they’ve made big bucks while their networks took the real chances… and now it’s win-win for everyone!

But what do you think? Do you agree? Do you think reality stars should be paid big bucks… or are they lucky just to get their shot? I’d love to hear your thoughts…