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Reality Returns

Which reality tv shows earn you the biggest bucks, and which reality stars earn the most?

Whether it be about finding love, living together or a good old fashioned talent contest, reality tv shows are a popular staple of British Television and as a result, thousands of people across the country are inspired to follow in the footsteps of their celebrity heroes and take part in a reality show.

But which one should they take part in? We have looked into the finances and social popularity of a plethora of the most renowned reality stars from the past decade to reveal who the most successful are and which shows enabled them to gain that success.

The Reality Shows with the Greatest Returns

The most successful reality shows

Using a formula combining estimated net worth (ENW) and social media earnings to create a scoring system out of ten we discovered that ITV’s The X Factor is the number one show for becoming successful with a huge score of eight. The former contestants analysed average over £28,000 per post on Instagram, and have an ENW of over five million.

When it comes to overall wealth the X Factor comes in a distant second to The Real Housewives of Cheshire, who average a massive ENW of just under £13 million pounds. Although as you will see later this number is significantly boosted by one extremely wealthy individual, The Real Housewives also struggle to be as popular on social media making the second-lowest amount per post of all the shows we studied. This drops their overall score down to 4.3, making them the third-best show.

Love Island ranks highly for social media popularity with an average of £11,220 per Instagram post, and an average of over 2.3 million followers. Combined with an ENW of over £2 million, it ranks as the 4th best show overall with a score of 3.7. Two spots higher in the list we travel up north to the Geordie Shore, cast members of this reality show average £3 million in ENW, as well as boasting just under five million followers and around £7700 per post. Combining this they score five, but it is still trailing the X Factor by some distance.

Is winning the show important?

Of course, the aim of competing is to win, but is winning a social media programme the most probable route to success? In a word, no. There are plenty of examples of contestants who failed to win the reality show going on to greater financial and social success than those who beat them. Molly-Mae Hague is the most successful person from Love Island with an average score of 5.52, this is over two points higher than the highest-ranking winner of the show, Dani Dyer.

The most successful former candidate on The Apprentice is Luisa Zissman who also finished second on the show, she ranks 14 places above the woman she lost to (Leah Totton). Furthermore, she is worth almost three and a half million pounds more and earns over seven times as much per Instagram post.

On the other hand, we have the members of pop band Little Mix who won the X Factor almost a decade ago. The three current (and one former) members make up four of the top 5 in our rankings chart. However, they are an exception to the rule as historically contestants who didn’t win the show went on to greater success. Although it was before the last 10 years of our study, the likes of One Direction, JLS and Olly Murs all found huge success without winning.


The Reality Stars with the Greatest Returns

Whichever show they were a part of, each of these reality tv stars has fared differently in terms of their individual financial success. Using the same calculation that definitively told us the best average show we can reveal that former Little Mix member and X Factor contestant Jesy Nixon is the most successful with an average score of 6.38/10, beating former bandmate Jade Thirwall into second place. The Little Mix quartet would have a stranglehold on the top of the rankings if it wasn’t for Love Island’s Molly-Mae who comes in fourth place.

She is also the reality star who earns the most per Instagram post as she earns an estimated £65,520 every time she hits the ‘share’ button, this places her just ahead of Jesy Nixon with £64,740. Molly-Mae’s partner Tommy Fury is the highest-earning male by this metric as he rakes in £7590, this ranks him 14th on the list behind a top 10 which is exclusively female.

However, in terms of net worth, there is a much more even split at the top of the rankings, with six males and four females. Coming at number one is Real Housewives of Cheshire star Dawn Ward who is estimated to be worth an astronomical £42 million, this is double what second-placed Spencer Matthews from Made in Chelsea has in the bank. Unlike the other categories, celebrities from these two shows rank highly for net worth which may be more to do with the fact that they are shows about people who are already rich rather than what they have earned as a result of the programme.

Outside of these shows, the highest ENW belongs to Mark Wright of TOWIE with £11 million, before he appeared on the programme he was a struggling footballer which indicates that the show had a much bigger impact on increasing his earnings.



For each person, we calculated an overall score based on the following three factors, giving a normalised score out of ten for each, before taking an overall average score across all three.

Estimated net worth

Sourced from the following:

Instagram followers

The number of followers on Instagram, as of February 24th 2021.

Estimated Instagram earnings per post

Calculated using HypeAuditor’s Instagram Money Calculator, which estimates the amount that an account can charge per post, based on factors such as follower count and engagement.

Figures were converted from US dollars to pound sterling using XE, as of February 24th 2021.

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