Judge Money

Highest-Paid Reality TV Hosts and Judges: Britney Spears, Ryan Seacrest, and More (Photos)

Gone are the days when C-listers ran the judging panels on talent shows. Britney Spears is reportedly joining The X-Factor to the tune of $15 million, surpassing Jennifer Lopez’s $12-million deal for American Idol and tying Spears with Ryan Seacrest as the highest-paid personality on reality television. From Seacrest to Simon Cowell to Padma Lakshmi, here are the top ten high-rolling hosts.

Gone are the days when C-listers ran the judging panels on talent shows. Britney Spears is reportedly joining The X-Factor to the tune of $15 million, surpassing Jennifer Lopez’s $12-million deal for American Idol and tying Spears with Ryan Seacrest as the highest-paid personality on reality television. From Seacrest to Simon Cowell to Padma Lakshmi, here are the top ten high-rolling hosts.

Dan Steinberg / AP Photo

Britney Spears

The pop singer peaked in the early 2000s, hit rock bottom in 2007, then bounced back last year with her billboard-topping album, Femme Fatale. Now it looks like Brit is parlaying her talents into judging other people’s talent on Simon Cowell’s X-Factor. Spears has reportedly been offered a whopping $15 million for the gig— several million more than the lump sums fellow pop-divas-turned-reality-TV-judges Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera make on their respective talent shows. As part of the reportedly imminent deal, Spears’s fiancé, music producer and manager Jason Trawick, will produce the show.

Michael Becker / FOX

Ryan Seacrest

No surprise here: In 2009, Seacrest, who has been with American Idol since it premiered ten years ago, sealed a three-year, $45 million deal to stay on as the show’s host. Seacrest’s Idol salary may explain his reluctance to leave the top-rated TV contest despite his other hosting gigs on E!, not to mention the money he makes from his production company. 

Ian Derry / FOX

Simon Cowell

In 2002, Cowell became the face of the ever-expanding talent-show business as the brutally frank top judge of American Idol, which now makes an average of $6.64 million in advertising revenue every half hour. According to Forbes, Cowell reportedly pocketed $75 million from Idol in 2009. Fox matched that fat sum last year for the premiere season of Cowell’s new show The X-Factor. While the show didn’t reach Cowell’s projected 20-million-viewer rating, he still managed to bank another $42 million in a deal with Sony to hand the show over to his production company, which also produces America’s Got Talent.

Michael Becker / FOX

Jennifer Lopez

Last year, J.Lo was paid $12 million to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol’s 10th season—a huge sum for the rookie judge. But Lopez’s star status was a key factor in the deal, and set off what The Hollywood Reporter has called “the J.Lo effect” for big-name judges demanding big paychecks.

Charles Sykes / AP Photo

Howard Stern

Even if Stern makes more money on his radio show, he’s still doing all right with his $15 million paycheck from NBC’s America’s Got Talent, where he recently became a panelist. Stern thinks he’s a natural fit for the gig, telling TV’s Inside Edition he’s the “gold standard” for judges and that American Idol panelists “need to watch the show and learn.”

Coleen Hayes / NBC

Christina Aguilera

Apparently NBC thinks Aguilera is worth more than all the other Voice judges combined. She reportedly rakes in more than $225,000 an episode, while the other coaches—Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine—get roughly $75,000 each. In early February, NBC signed Christina Aguilera on for a third season with The Voice for a reported $10 million.

Adam Rose / FOX

Cat Deely

So You Think You Can Dance is one of America’s hottest TV shows. So it’s not exactly a shocker that its blonde bombshell host Deeley makes $60,000 per episode. Not surprising, but does it seem fair?

Trae Patton / NBC

Nick Cannon

Cannon reportedly makes $70,000 per episode for hosting America’s Got Talent. But in case you thought he wasn’t working for it, Cannon warned that the job is actually pretty stressful. He said he and other judges often put in three 12-hour days in a row and go through as many as 200 contestants a day.  

Virginia Sherwood / Bravo

Padma Lakshmi

Top Chef host Lakshmi makes about $50,000 per episode. Not bad considering her job is mostly to sit and sample food. But Lakshmi swears it’s not easy. “It's hard to eat that much every day,” she once said. “It's a lot of wear-and-tear on the body and the digestive tract.”

Mitch Haaseth / NBC

Donald Trump

Last year, there were reports that Trump had signed a $160-million deal with NBC to host two more seasons of Celebrity Apprentice. The reports were “grossly inaccurate,” NBC said in a statement. “While it is our policy to keep financial information strictly confidential, neither the [reported] production costs of the show nor what Mr. Trump makes personally is in the realm of reality,” the company said. Don’t feel too bad for The Donald, he’s already rich, but it looks like he makes closer to $100,000 per episode.