What You Need to Know Before Signing a Reality TV Contract

Posted by Mohsen Parsa | Jul 01, 2017 | 2 Comments

Finding out you might be on a Reality TV show is a big deal. It's a cause for celebration, but it's also a time for caution. The producers of the show are going to want you to sign a contract. Many people are so excited for the chance to be on TV that they eagerly sign whatever piece of paper is put in front of them. It is important to realize that when you sign a contract, the consequences could affect you for the rest of your life.

Before you sign a potentially disastrous deal, make sure you understand what is in the contract that you are signing. You probably have more leverage to negotiate than you realize.

How Hollywood Contracts Work

In Reality TV, the producers of the show have all the power. If they are considering you for their show, their first priority is to get you to sign a contract. You may not even be guaranteed a part on the show yet.

The contracts are all written to favor the show and the producers. But keep in mind, the contract you are given is just a first offer. If you have reached the contract stage, that means they are interested in you. You have some leverage. You owe it to yourself to make sure you know what is in the contract and to negotiate for better treatment.

Virtually all Reality TV show contracts have a provision that any disputes over the contract must be heard in a California court. California courts often side with the show and the producers when it comes to upholding the contract. You cannot count on the court to bail you out of a bad deal.

Contract Clauses to Watch Out For

You should carefully read through your entire contract before signing it. You should also get the advice of an experienced entertainment lawyer.

Here are some clauses you should pay special attention to:

  • Termination Clause – Understand what happens when things go bad and someone breaks the contract.
  • Release of Liability – Make sure you understand what you are promising not to sue them over. If you are not comfortable with the release, it's time to negotiate.
  • Hold Period – Once filming begins through some time after the last episode airs, you will need permission from the producers before you can appear on any other show. If the period is too long, you may want to negotiate better terms.
  • Life Story Rights – Producers often add an exclusive right to sell your life story not in conjunction with the TV show. This means that they can sell your life story for theatrical motion pictures, stage plays, radio, internet, or through any other media and you will not be compensated. You should never accept this term in your contract.
  • Right to Defame You – Most contracts will allow the producers portray you in any way they want, even if it is false and misleading. This clause requires you to give up your right to sue the producers for defaming you.
  • Royalties on Future Earnings – Producers will try and claim a percentage of all your future earnings outside of the show for a period of time. Be cautious with this clause. You don't know what your future holds. Both the percentage of future earnings and the time period should be negotiated.

Role of an Entertainment Lawyer

The fact is that as excited as you are about the opportunity to be on a Reality TV show, you never know what your future holds. You most likely have never signed an entertainment industry contract before. You may be unfamiliar with many of the terms.

An entertainment lawyer can help educate you about your contract and help you negotiate a deal that better protects your future rights without jeopardizing your current opportunity.

Getting a part on a Reality TV show may be an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Make sure that you get expert advice so that you don't regret being on the show for the rest of your life.

About the Author

Mohsen Parsa

Mohsen Parsa is a business and entertainment attorney serving clients in Los Angeles and Orange County. Mr. Parsa prides himself on a proven history of successful resolutions for his clients, and a firm dedication to hard work and intelligent strategies in every representation.


SV Reply

Posted Dec 10, 2018 at 14:42:47

Do contracts expire typically? If you are on a reality show 10 years ago, would they still be able to air or sell the episodes? If a streaming service starts airing the show, do you have an opportunity to ask them not to air your episodes?

Mohsen Parsa Reply

Posted Dec 11, 2018 at 15:30:18

The short answer is it depends on the type of contract you signed 10 years ago. In general, contracts would specify a duration of time, but they don’t have to. You would have to check the actual contract itself to see if it included a duration of time for the contract to be valid.

Conversely, there are ways of terminating the contract. Sometimes contracts will include certain clauses involving grounds for terminating the agreement prior to the intended termination date without causing the parties to be in breach.

Streaming services will purchase a license so that they can have the rights to stream a show or movie, likely for a duration of time. As for a reality TV show, it would depend heavily on your contract, and whether or not you signed over your rights to allow the owner of the show to stream the TV show on any platform they wish. So if you wanted to stop a streaming service from airing your episode, you should refer back to your contract and see what (if any) options you have to stop the show from being aired.

With the above being said, every contract is different, so you may wish to seek the assistance of an attorney to help you interpreting the contract.

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