Have you ever dreamed about going on America’s Got Talent and winning the million-dollar prize? Well, don’t get too excited! You may be surprised to learn that America’s Got Talent winners don’t actually receive a full $1 million when they win. In fact, most end up settling for less than half that amount. Here’s the reason why these lucky contestants get short-changed.
‘America’s Got Talent’ Has Been Running Since 2006
America’s Got Talent first aired on NBC in the summer of 2006. It was an instant hit, with an astounding 12 million viewers tuning in to the premiere episode. Now gearing up for its 16th season, the show features contestants vying for a top prize of $1 million. Like American Idol, open auditions are held across the country, attracting massive crowds hoping to make it big.
“The show has 100 talent producers. They have thousands and thousands of people show up to every city, and they work 12 months a year, constantly on the road,” judge Howie Mandell said of the audition process in a 2016 interview with TVTango.com. “No matter how big the lineup is, they all get seen.”
Once the talent pool is narrowed down, the finalists perform in front of a live audience and are judged by a panel of celebrities. As with American Idol, viewers at home get to vote on their favorites. But unlike American Idol, America’s Got Talent contestants don’t have to be singers. They can be magicians, comedians, contortionists — pretty much any impressive talent can earn them a chance to compete!
For the 15 years that America’s Got Talent has been on the air, the show has featured a number of different celebrity judges and hosts from across the entertainment industry, including Regis Philbin, Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, Nick Cannon, and Tyra Banks. The current panel of judges features Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, and Sofia Vergara, with Terry Crews as host.
‘America’s Got Talent’ Winners Are Promised A $1 Million Prize
So far, 15 people have been awarded the show’s hefty grand prize. Brandon Leake, whose poems about the Black Lives Matter movement touched viewers around the world, was AGT’s most recent winner. In addition to the cash prize, he scored a headlining slot in a Las Vegas show. His win was also the first by a spoken-word poet. “This is a huge win for the spoken-word community,” Leake said of his big win. “For an art form that has not been on the mainstream ever to have a chance to win America’s Got Talent is bigger than anything. I am going to show the world what a spoken-word poet can do.”
Other notable winners include singer Bianca Ryan, who won the first-ever season at just 11 years old; sleight-of-hand expert Mat Franco, the first magician to win; and ventriloquist Terry Fator, whose been headlining his own Vegas show ever since his win back in 2007.
Here’s Why Nearly All ‘America’s Got Talent’ Winners Won’t Receive $1 Million
So what’s the deal with the grand prize? Is AGT scamming its contestants? Not quite. The show does indeed award a $1 million prize to its winner. But there’s a catch, which is sneakily revealed in a disclaimer at the end of every episode.
“The prize, which totals $1,000,000, is payable in a financial annuity over forty years, or the contestant may choose to receive the present cash value of such annuity,” it says.
What does this mean? Essentially, the disclaimer is saying that winners of America’s Got Talent do not receive $1 million in a lump sum. Instead, they receive yearly pre-tax payouts of $25,000, which means it takes 40 years for them to collect their full $1 million prize. That’s a long time!
If contestants don’t want to wait four decades to get their winnings, they are given an option. They can elect to receive one pre-tax lump sum of $300,000, and that’s it. So it’s either wait 40 years to receive the full $1 million (which ends up being less after taxes) or accept a huge pay cut to go home right away with $300,000 (which is also less after taxes).
Pretty sneaky, right? We think so! Unfortunately, it’s all legit due to the disclaimer at the end of the show and the legal clauses written into each contestant’s contracts. And at the end of the day, winning AGT is still a huge financial score. Whether the winner chooses the long-term payout or the $300,000 lump sum, the show gives them the kind of notoriety that instantly increases their earning power.