Contestants practice dance moves during the production of the “Idol School” reality television show by CJ E&M Corp. at the Yangpyeong English School in Yangpyeong, South Korea. (Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg)

Reality Show Fame Is More Lucrative Than an Oxford or Cambridge Education

(Bloomberg) -- Contestants on British reality TV show Love Island out-earn graduates from the U.K.’s most prestigious universities, according to economics consultancy Frontier.

On average, those arriving at the Mediterranean villa in search of love, fame or fortune can expect to earn 1.1 million pounds ($1.4 million), outstripping the projected financial benefits of studying at either the University of Oxford or its counterpart in Cambridge, Frontier said. Oxbridge graduates are likely to earn about 815,000 pounds more over their lifetime than someone who does not attend university, the research found.

While the aim of the TV show may be to find true love, the victorious couple also get 50,000 pounds which they can choose to share or risk losing. The real money comes after leaving the show though, when sponsored Instagram posts, club appearances and social media followers can all help former contestants continue to rake in cash.

“It appears to us that the young people of Britain are on to something and may be completely rational in their desire to appear on Love Island,” the researchers said.

Earlier this summer, it emerged that more Britons applied to appear on the show than to study at Oxford and Cambridge, which top the Times Higher Education world university rankings. The hit program is now in its fourth season and draws in 2.7 million viewers a night, or 4 million with catch-up viewing included.

“Earnings are closely related to the length of stay on the show, with constant on-screen exposure helping contestants build their public brand,” researchers found. Those popular enough to last the whole series can net around 2.3 million pounds over the next five years, while actually winning gives only a relatively small boost on top of that.

Frontier also calculated how contestants can best extend their stays: being part of the “original crew” increases your chances of staying for the duration over those who join the cast later. Yet even though arriving late means you have far greater chance of an early exit, those contestants can still earn about 800,000 pounds over the five years after the show.

Factoring in the debt accrued by those studying at university in the U.K., which the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates at average of 50,000 pounds, widens the disparity still further.

Even so, the researchers did add one key warning to any aspiring stars: their calculations don’t account for the reputational cost of embarrassing oneself on national television, something they recommend considering before filling out that application.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.