The Price of Viral Video: How Much TMZ is Paying for Big Headlines

By on February 29, 2016 in ArticlesEntertainment

New numbers are out that are suggesting that some of those viral videos that have made major headlines and revealed some big secrets about celebrities have come with a hefty price tag.

TMZ is a celebrity news website that debuted in November of 2005. Led by managing editor and lawyer-turned-journalist Harvey Levin, the name of the popular site comes from the historic thirty-mile zone centered at the intersections of North La Cienega Boulevard and West Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Coincidentally, their leaked videos often deal with the very stars who frequent that same radius. But just how much does it cost to get ahold of the steamy footage that is guaranteed to bring major (unwanted) attention to the site and those involved?

  1. Ray Rice Elevator Video ($15,000)

You might remember some dramatic footage of former NFL player Ray Rice allegedly dragging the seemingly unconscious body of his fiancé from an Atlantic City elevator. The footage also shows Rice knocking his fiancé, Janay Palmer, down inside during the elevator ride in the shocking 2014 release. This footage leak, which led to Rice's termination from the Baltimore Ravens, cost TMZ an alleged $15,000.

  1. Solange/Jay Z Elevator Video ($5,000)

Elevator footage comes at a high price, but how much did TMZ pay for this now infamous quarrel? In 2014, the Internet blew up when some surprising footage of Solange Knowles attacking her brother-in-law, singer Jay Z, while sister Beyoncé stood by watching. The incident happened at the Standard in New York City and a former TMZ employee reveals that the source received a payday to the tune of $5,000 to hand over the security camera footage, despite reports that it was sold for a cost upwards of $250,000.

  1. Justin Bieber's "N-word" Bomb Video ($80,000)

If you thought the price for incriminating elevator footage was high, you might not believe how much TMZ coughed up for this video of famous singer Justin Bieber using a racial slur. In this video allegedly obtained by TMZ in 2011 but not posted until 2014, Bieber uses the n-word during an a cappella performance of his hit song, "One Less Lonely Girl." That slur had TMZ handing over $80,000.

  1. Drug-fueled Party Revelations ($2,500)
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

While this video didn't actually show Charlie Sheen's now infamous party habits, TMZ paid a healthy sum to an eyewitness of a 2011 party that put the former "Two and a Half Men" star in the hospital. Courtney Roskop was paid $2,500 to share the details of the wild, cocaine-influenced night to TMZ audiences.

  1. Drake's Strip Club Fiasco ($5,000)

You might remember a famous video of "Hotline Bling" rapper Drake showing just what he's worth outside of a well-known Washington strip club. While the singer was throwing his own sum of money outside of the club, TMZ was prepared to hand over their own lump of cash to the source providing the video. The footage allegedly cost the celebrity news source a total of $5,000.

  1. The Houston Bathtub Shot ($1,000)

Here's proof that – while this is not an actual video clip – TMZ is willing to pay a hefty fee for photography as well. When Whitney Houston was found dead in Room 434 at the Beverly Hilton, TMZ was first to obtain a shot of the bathtub where her body was recovered. The shot shows a still-filled tub and was enough for TMZ to hand over a healthy sum of $1,000.

Articles Written by Chris Kelley
For as long as he can remember, Chris has been interested in storytelling in all mediums. From (literally) working on syndicated quilting shows and fetching drinks for "The Bachelor" to T.V. news producing and freelance writing, Chris attributes his colorful career to his time at Iowa State University. He currently lives on the East Coast with his mini pig, Pegasus. Follow him on Twitter.
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