What Are Reality Television Contestants Agreeing To?

Whether you like it or not reality television, or as it's better known in the business “unscripted television”, is here to stay. Unscripted television seems to have a never-ending supply of willing and able contestants who are completely content with signing away a broad stroke of their rights. Based on my list of interesting contestant deal points below, I often wonder if contestants fully understand what they're agreeing to.

Contestants agree to: 

  • Participate in the show to whatever extent is required by the producer. In other words, the contestant agrees to do ANYTHING that the show requires (ex. unknown amounts of travel, games, and dangerous activities).
  • Make themselves available for any publicity that the producer requires (ex. unknown number of talk shows, news, and appearances).
  • Acknowledge that participation could result in serious physical injury, death, and/or mental or physical illness and completely release any liability on the production regarding these risks.
  • Acknowledge that the show might include statements and opinions from other people about the contestant that normally would be considered defamatory, surprising, humiliating, or offensive.
  • Acknowledge that secret information about the contestant that is private, intimate, surprising, embarrassing, and/or generally considered unfavorable may be divulged to the public.
  • Acknowledge that any equipment (ex. safety equipment) used on the show might not be fit or suitable for the purpose of which it is being used.
  • Acknowledge that after the show is released, the contestant might become the subject of public ridicule, humiliation, or condemnation.
  • Not take any personal photos or videos on set and if the contestant is allowed to take personal photos/videos, the production can use them in the show and edit them to any amount the production chooses.
  • Payment in the form of room and board. Contestants do get paid on a lot of shows but sometimes they agree to receive next to nothing. 
  • Make themselves available as much as the producer requests for publicity and bonus episodes (subject to contestant's pre-existing work obligations) and participate without any additional compensation.
  • Assume the risk that the contestant might be on show with other people who are mentally unstable.  

The bottom line is that unscripted television contestants will agree to be portrayed in any way that the producer desires and to release liability regarding extreme amounts of risk (physical, mental, and public ridicule). If you're a contestant on a reality show who wants their contract reviewed or you're producing a reality show and need help drafting contestant related contracts, reach out to my office to set up a free consultation by calling (424) 202-4239, sending an email to [email protected], or visiting my website at pittentertainmentlaw.com

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Pitt Entertainment Law is a law firm representing independent creators (Production Companies, Producers, Writer, Directors, Physical Production Crew, Actors, and Social Media Influencers) across Film, Television, and Social Media.

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