Blockbuster films regularly have seven-figure budgets, but TV shows have recently begun to rival Hollywood in terms of high production costs. Elaborate sets, A-list cast members, and exotic filming locations have turned some series into cinematic masterpieces with jaw-dropping price tags to match.
Here are 14 television shows that have delivered some of the most expensive episodes of all time.
Making “Camelot” cost around $US7 million per episode.
Despite being canceled by Starz after just 10 episodes, this historical fantasy series had a huge budget. The Wall Street Journal reported that the network reportedly spent approximately $US7 million per episode to keep fans immersed in the mythical land of King Arthur.
“Marco Polo” received a mixed critical reception despite its $US9 million per episode price tag.
When it debuted back in 2014, Business Insider reported that the 10-episode series was the most expensive Netflix production to date. During its run, “Marco Polo” cost about $US9 million per episode to produce. That expenditure didn’t seem to translate to rave reviews and the historical epic was canceled after just two seasons.
Each episode of “The Alienist” took about $US9 million to bring to life.
In an interview with Variety, TBS and TNT president Kevin Reilly revealed that each episode of the network’s moody historical crime series “The Alienist” cost $US9 million to produce. It’s the most expensive show the channel has ever produced and is based on Caleb Carr’s 1994 bestselling novel about hunting a serial killer in 1890s New York.
Sense8 was a cult show with a budget of $US9 million per episode.
This short-lived Netflix series centered around a group of strangers who are mentally connected. Even though the show was apparently a hit with fans, Netflix axed it after spending a reported $US9 million per episode, according to The Verge. To appease viewers, the streaming service ended the story of “Sense8” with a feature-length finale film.
The creators of “Rome” spent about $US10 million per episode.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, writer and director Bruno Heller admitted that HBO’s hit show “Rome” was a victim of its high production cost. The sweeping historical drama set against Julius Caesar’s civil war of 49 BC cost about $US10 million per episode. The show’s creators cited the elaborate sets and Italian filming locations as big contributors to the expense of making the show.
“Fringe” was a science fiction show with a $US10 million price tag.
New York magazine reported that the feature-length pilot episode of the sci-fi hit “Fringe” cost a staggering $US10 million. That’s more than double the already princely price of $US4 million per standard episode of the series.
The pilot episode of “Lost” was staggeringly expensive to make.
According to E! News, the pilot episode of the cult show “Lost” cost between $US10 and $US14 million to make. Much of the expense was due to the need to acquire, transport, and style a real decommissioned airliner to serve as the doomed Flight 815 in the series opener.
Each episode of “ER” cost about $US13 million to make.
“ER” is television’s longest-running medical drama, and according to The Baltimore Sun, this mega-hit cost NBC a full $US13 million per episode at its peak. The high cost was reportedly due in part to the network’s attempt to woo cast member George Clooney into remaining with the series in 1998. However, Clooney left “ER” in 1999.
A typical episode of “The Crown” costs $US13 million.
This regal drama about the life of British monarch Queen Elizabeth is produced by Netflix for an eye-watering $US13 million per episode, according to Market Watch. With opulent costuming, a celebrity cast, and rigorous attention to historical detail, this series has won an adoring fan base in exchange for shelling out millions per episode.
The final season of “Game of Thrones” will cost about $US90 million to produce, or $US15 million per episode.
Even though the eighth and last season of “Game of Thrones” will include just six episodes, Variety reported that HBO will be spending a cool $US15 million per episode to bring the world of Westeros to life. That whopping sum supports the show’s giant cast, movie-worthy special effects, and on-location filming in exotic locales.
“The Get Down” was short-lived, but it’s reported to have racked up a bill of $US16 million per episode.
Yes, you read that right. Netflix’ hip-hop musical series from acclaimed duo Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann had a star-studded creative team, but it was canceled after just one season. The streaming service reportedly paid up to $US16 million per episode to fund the production of the series, according to Deadline.
The pilot episode of “Boardwalk Empire” cost nearly $US20 million to make.
It wasn’t cheap to produce this television period drama. According to TV By The Numbers, the opening episode of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” cost a mind-melting $US18 million. That’s on top of the $US5 million it took to produce each regular episode. The show was directed by Martin Scorsese and featured a real, 300-foot-long boardwalk that also cost $US5 million to build.
“Westworld” debuted with a pilot episode that reportedly cost $US25 million.
HBO is no stranger to high production costs, but the series opener of their sci-fi-cum-western show “Westworld” reportedly had a budget of $US25 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The visual effects, historically accurate props, and cinematic sets all contribute to the show’s epic cost.
“The Pacific” was a military miniseries with a budget of $US20 million per episode.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO’s critically lauded miniseries about the experience of three marines in the Pacific War commanded a budget of around $US20 million per episode. The entire series consisted of only 10 episodes, but the high production cost of each means that HBO’s total expenditure topped out at $US200 million.
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