International TV producers say budgets are surging as the streaming wars heat up – in some cases doubling season over season

Sacred games netflix season two
‘Sacred Games.’ Tejinder Singh Khamkh/Netflix

US media giants like Disney and WarnerMedia are starting to commission more shows internationally, as they borrow from Netflix’s streaming playbook and expand into local programming.

Where TV producers in major and emerging production markets like Germany and Brazil once had a handful of local buyers to pitch, they may have six or seven now.

Buyers can include local broadcasters and platforms, as well as global streamers like Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+, and HBO Max.

India, a key region for Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, has 40 different platforms competing for content, by the estimate of one studio executive.

Streaming competition, and the widespread success of local-language shows from Netflix’s “Lupin” to Apple’s “Tehran,” is driving up TV budgets, according to eight international TV producers who spoke with Insider.

Danna Stern at Israel’s Yes Studios said the studio used to produce drama series for 600,000 to 800,000 shekels ($184,000 to $245,000) per episode. Now, the conversations start at 800,000 and go north of 1.2 million ($370,000), depending on the number of episodes per season. The budget for the upcoming fourth season of the Hebrew-language series “Fauda,” which Yes Studios licenses to Netflix, cost roughly 30% more than the first season, she said.

In India, Shibasish Sarkar, CEO of India’s Reliance Entertainment, said scripted shows are being made for as little as $1 million for an eight-episode season on a smaller platform, and as much as $20 million on a bigger platform. The budget for “Sacred Games,” Netflix’s first Indian original, nearly doubled in 2019 to $11.5 million for its second season, from roughly $6 million in season one, Sarkar said.

Still, the budgets are not quite on par with the US, where a single hour of a blockbuster TV show like Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” can cost $15 million to produce.

Read more about the Netflix effect on global TV: 8 international producers describe shifting priorities, rising budgets, and talent wars as streaming competition heats up