Q: How are the alligator hunters on the show "Swamp People" compensated by History Channel?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

Technically, they aren't. History Channel pays the show's producer, Original Media, which then pays the hunters, who are represented in negotiations by their artistic management company, Base Camp Management. It's a small point, but it's a hint at how not-straightforward the question of reality-TV compensation is.

As well, the hunters frequently reference how tough and financially risky it is to be in the gator-hunting business, which leads everyone involved to be less than forthcoming with hard numbers. What we're left with are estimates and assumptions.

Both suggest that the answer to how much they're paid is: not very much.

E! Online estimates that reality shows cost between $100,000 and $500,000 to make. However, these numbers include high-profile shows such as "America's Next Top Model" and "The Bachelor," which have costly sets and prizes at the end, so a show like "Swamp People," built on the following-normal-people-around-with-a-camera model, would definitely come in at the low end of that range.

That said, even "Swamp People" has production costs. And the producer, Original Media, is a fully connected Hollywood player (apart from a sizable stable of other reality shows, Original also does films, including the Oscar-nominated 2005 hit "The Squid and the Whale") that would command a fair paycheck for itself.

That doesn't leave a whole lot for the cast. Of course, they still make the money from their alligator catches, and at least one of them is leveraging his "Swamp People" fame for a little extra cash.

Troy Landry, who, along with his son Jacob makes up one of the gator-hunting teams featured on "Swamp People," was in court this past winter, suing for trademark infringement. He alleges that other companies sold merchandise featuring a few of his signature (and legally trademarked) Bayou-isms, including "choot 'em," "tree shaka" and "mudda fricka." Landry is demanding compensation because it is allegedly stealing business from his own line of products.

This speaks to another reality of reality TV, which is that the "stars" frequently expect to make money off the fame the shows generate, rather than checks from the shows themselves.


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