The Best $15,000 TMZ Ever Spent?

That’s the rumored ballpark licensing fee paid by TMZ to Splash News* for the Prince Harry Las Vegas “strip billiards” shots. Whether you approve of a not-so-innocent bystander cell phone snapping and selling, the citizen muckracker mechanism and resulting TMZ item were responsible for this summer’s blockbuster celebrity news scoop.

It’s a Wynn-Wynn for the two west coast media outfits. Splash News makes a quick, small profit while TMZ garners the kind of Web traffic (and residual TV ratings heat) that quickly covers the purchase price. Although $15,000 seems low. It would not surprise FishbowlLA if the licensing fee was higher, and that the $15,000 is actually what Splash paid at their end.* Attempts to confirm with both Splash and TMZ were unsuccessful.

You’d think that Harry, having grown up in the glare of Fleet Street, would have some sort of lock-down routine when he makes like a rock star and picks out young women from a hotel lobby crowd. But as The Daily Beast “Royalist” Tom Sykes rightly guessed when the story first broke, this was stunningly not the case. Today, TMZ has confirmed the security-breach details, while also gloating:

When the girls entered the room, we’re told the ladies were NOT asked to surrender their phones … an epic failure considering Harry’s well-documented wild side.

As the party fired up, several girls began to snap pics on their cell phones … and one of Harry’s minders lackadaisically told the women, ‘Awww, come on .. no photos.’

Sources who were there tell TMZ … the minders were asleep at the wheel, enjoying the party more than protecting the Prince from himself.

TMZ is no stranger to rocking the ranks of celebrity bad boy behavior. But this is different. On the heels of the triumphant 2012 Summer Olympics, the site has scored a bull’s eye on the Queen mother of all celebrity-scandal tabloid targets. With its much older Fleet Street competitors ordered not to share in the gutter glory. Wynn-Wynn… win!

* Update – 08/23/12: A more likely scenario is that TMZ paid directly for the pictures, then engaged Splash News to syndicate them worldwide on the site’s behalf. E.g., TMZ negotiated a heck of a deal.