Are the American Ninja Warriors paid? The hugely popular competition series finally got a winner in Season 7’s Isaac Caldiero, but his victory proved to be somewhat controversial among fans of the show, when they found out what runner-up Geoff Britten took home after his surprise defeat.
“By the rules,” ANW producer Kent Weed told the Hollywood Reporter following the Season 7 finale, “the money goes to the fastest person. If there’s more than one finisher, the one with the fastest time gets it.” That rule meant Geoff, despite becoming the first person ever to finish the show’s Stage 4 obstacle course, lost the $1 million grand prize to Caldiero, who completed the rope climb three seconds faster–and went after Britten.
No big deal, though, right? Surely Britten took home a handsome second-place prize for his efforts. Maybe a half-million dollars? Or a hundred thousand? Something like that? The answer, unfortunately, is no: the only contestant to ever earn any money on American Ninja Warrior is the grand prize winner following the Stage 4 finale, provided someone actually does complete the stage. Otherwise, as one commenter put it, “You are doing it for honor.”
The fact was backed up by five-time contestant Ryan Stratis in a Reddit AMA shortly after Season 6. “We do not get paid to try out in the regional locations,” Ryan confirmed. “Everything is out of pocket for your travel to the location and hotel and food. Only time you had anything paid for is if you made the finals.” However, as Ryan went on to explain, the show’s producers do cover living expenses while the contestants are filming the final: “When I went to Japan for ANW 3 our flights and hotel [were] paid for and we got a stipend for things like food for the week.”
It looks like the only other way to make money on American Ninja Warrior is by being a cheering extra. A Dallas Observer article on a regional tryout a few seasons ago noted that the producers were still looking for people to stand around and cheer during filming–which had to be done overnight, from 9 PM to 3 AM. Your payment for six hours of delirious noise making? $47.50, plus an additional $7.25 per hour if the filming ran long.
American Ninja Warrior‘s new season continues Wednesday nights at 8 on NBC.
(Photo credits: Are the American Ninja Warriors paid via Facebook, NBC)