‘Teen Mom’ vs. ‘Unexpected’: Which Show Pays More Per Episode?

16 and Pregnant is the gift that keeps on giving for MTV. What started out as a run-of-the-mill docuseries focused on teen pregnancy has turned into a franchise of its own. The most interesting of the original subjects of 16 and Pregnant have gone on star in MTV’s Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2, both of which are smash hits. The girls have gone on to write books and start their own businesses, all thanks to their Teen Mom stardom. The show must have looked so good to TLC that they decided to follow in MTV’s footsteps. Unexpected is a show similar in concept that premiered on The Learning Channel in 2017. 

Bristol Palin and TV Personalities from MTV's "Teen Mom" Maci Bookout and Farrah Abraham attend" The Harsh Truth: Teen Moms Tell All" Town Hall Meeting sponsored by The Candie's Foundation at Lighthouse International Conference Center on May 5, 2010
Bristol Palin and TV Personalities from MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ Maci Bookout and Farrah Abraham | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

‘Unexpected’ is kind of a combination of ‘Teen Mom’ and ’16 and Pregnant’

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Unexpected follows teen moms in a similar fashion to 16 and Pregnant. The look is a little closer, however. Instead of doing an episode per subject, Unexpected follows a few subjects — usually 3 or 4 — for the entire season. According to The List, some of the families change every season, while some of the moms return. Specifically, McKayla Adkins is still on the show, even though she’s no longer expecting. 

Teen Mom is a similar format, although none of the subjects are pregnant with their first child. Most of the moms on the show have had second and even third children over the years, but for all the women, their first pregnancy appeared on 16 and Pregnant. Not all the girls were exactly 16. Some were a year older or younger, but all were teenagers when MTV unwittingly picked them for stardom. 

The ‘Unexpected’ girls aren’t as famous as the ‘Teen Mom’ superstars 

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Teen Mom fame is the stuff of reality dreams. Let’s be honest, dozens of new reality shows premiere every year. Most of them last a season or two, before fading into obscurity. The subjects may have a fun story to tell at parties, but being on a reality show hardly means instant stardom. In fact, MTV never intended for 16 and Pregnant to continue. After the success of the show, the docuseries producers decided to revisit a small subset of the moms with Teen Mom.

The Unexpected crew hardly has the name recognition of Teen Mom, and at this point, they seem unlikely to get it. After three years on reality TV, Adkins has less than 300,000 subscribers on YouTube. While she claims to make money from her channel, that number pales in comparison to the real earners on the site. 

‘Teen Mom’ stars make buckets more money than the ‘Unexpected’ cast

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Adkins may need the money from YouTube to make ends meet. Unlike her Teen Mom counterparts, she probably couldn’t live on her Unexpected salary alone. She’s never gone public with how much she makes on the TLC show, and neither have her co-stars. But the stars of 90 Day Fiance make around $1,000 an episode. That’s probably comparable to what the Unexpected subjects are pulling in.

Other TLC stars make more, like the cast of Outdaughtered. The Busby family makes around $10,000 per episode, but that’s as a family, and there are a lot of them. Adkins has been in more episodes of Unexpected than any of her co-stars, and she’s only been in 32 episodes total over the show’s three seasons, according to IMDb. Even if she’s making around $3,000 per episode, that’s only $96,000 over the three years of the show. That’s around $32,000 a year. 

Teen Mom stars are in a completely different tax bracket thanks to their MTV salaries. Their per-episode range is in the triple digits, with estimates putting them between $400,000 and $500,000 per episode.