Top 10 Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made

Written by Noah Levy They may be made for the small screen, but they’ve got big screen budgets. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made. For this list, we’re looking at shows that were made for TV and streaming services that had huge budgets. We’re considering the total production budget, the reported salaries of the actors, and any costly rumored production issues, as well as the overall quality of the series. Special thanks to our user government free for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Most+Expensive+TV+Shows+Ever+Made
Credits
Tags
Comments

You must login to access this feature

Transcript
They may be made for the small screen, but they’ve got big screen budgets. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made.

For this list, we’re looking at shows that were made for TV and streaming services that had huge budgets. We’re considering the total production budget, the reported salaries of the actors, and any costly rumored production issues, as well as the overall quality of the series.

#10: “Boardwalk Empire” (2010-14)


Period pieces tend to have higher budgets than their contemporary counterparts, and that’s especially true when your show is on a prestigious network like HBO. This prohibition era gangster series, executive produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Steve Buscemi, is a prime example. HBO reportedly spent $18 million for the pilot of the series, and then an estimated $5 million per episode after that to recreate 1920s Atlantic City and Nucky Thompson’s bootlegging empire. Not only that, the titular boardwalk cost anywhere from $2 to $5 million to build in an abandoned Brooklyn parking garage. We’d say that’s worth a drink or two.

#9: “Terra Nova” (2011)


Period pieces are one thing, but how do you properly budget for a show that takes place in both the future and prehistoric past? This short lived but high-cost Fox sci-fi show answered that question. The pilot, in which humans in the 22nd century travel back to the Cretaceous period to start new lives, cost $20 million, an unheard of amount for a network TV production. Each additional episode reportedly cost $4 million, a full million more per episode than your average network drama. Much of these funds went to the sets and the extravagant dinosaur effects. Unfortunately, Fox’s gamble didn’t pay off, and the overly ambitious series only lasted one 13-episode season.

#8: “The Walking Dead” (2010-)


You think all that zombie makeup comes cheap? The budget of AMC’s smash hit has actually been a subject of contention with the production crew; specifically show developer Frank Darabont left due to AMC cutting the budget from $3.4 to $3 million an episode during Season 2. Still, The Walking Dead remains one of the slickest produced shows on TV, with the money going to create some of the most creative undead effects ever seen, as well as retaining its cast, like lead Andrew Lincoln, who makes $1.44 million each season.

#7: “Rome” (2005-07)


This was one of the first shows to prove that historical epics could work on the small screen, so long as networks are willing to spend accordingly. Not only did the show feature a massive cast; it also required incredibly detailed set recreations of Ancient Roman locations, including Roman villas, slums, and the Forum. The daunting production costs resulted in HBO and the BBC splitting the budget of the show, which ended up costing $9 million an episode. Rome was a pioneer in putting epic stories on television, something that HBO would go on to explore with future shows.

#6: “Friends” (1994-2004)


Big budgets aren’t just the standard for sprawling prestige dramas. Sometimes if a show has a talented enough cast, much of its cash winds up committed to keeping them around. This was the predicament NBC found themselves in with this “Must See TV” staple. As the six leads rose to popularity with the show, the cast maintained equal salaries, which towards the end of the series, was a substantial sum. For the final two seasons, Aniston, Cox, Kudrow, LeBlanc, Perry and Schwimmer were all getting paid $1 million an episode, jacking up the show’s otherwise modest budget, and making Friends one of the most expensive sitcoms ever produced.

#5: “The Get Down” (2016-)


With a visual wonder like Baz Luhrmann at the helm of a show, you know it’s gonna be saddled with a Hollywood level budget. Indeed, his Netflix project is one of the most expensive shows ever made, especially for a streaming service. The show’s recreations of 1970s New York, as well as lavish musical numbers, have given the show a price tag of $10 million an episode, resulting in $120 million for the 12 episode first season, which is just $10 million less than Luhrmann’s most expensive film, “Australia”. Although unconfirmed, it’s been rumored that it frequently went over budget, with sources claiming that it climbed to $16 million per episode, or roughly $192 million total.

#4: “Marco Polo” (2014-16)


Here’s another Netflix original, though not one successful enough to justify the huge amounts of cash spent on it. The historical drama about its titular explorer required lavish sets and costumes to recreate the period setting of late 13th century China, which resulted in Netflix paying $90 million for the entire series, a huge number for any TV show. Unfortunately, the series debuted to middling reviews, and while it made it to a second season, Marco Polo’s journey ended shortly after that. Thankfully, for Netflix, this poor investment is more an exception than the rule.

#3: “ER” (1994-2009)


A medical drama seems like an unlikely candidate for such a list, but then again, few series have held the title of most watched series in the country or included a young George Clooney. In order to maintain high ratings and to keep their star player on board, NBC bumped the per episode budget from $2 million to a whopping $13 million for seasons 4 through 6. The investment was later known by some as “the half-a-billion dollar blunder”, costing NBC a whopping $440 million. Still, ER stayed in the Top 5 in ratings during that time, though Clooney checked out at the end of the fifth.

#2: “The Crown” (2016-)


It’s only fitting that a show about the royal family ends up being jaw-droppingly expensive. Another Netflix period drama, The Crown had a budget estimated to be in the ballpark of $130 million, just for the first season of ten episodes. If accurate, that makes it the most expensive TV show in history. Once again, the massive budget comes as a result of incredible period detail, which includes such things as a realistic recreation of Buckingham Palace, and roughly 20,000 costumes. Lucky for Netflix, the gamble paid off, as the show received strong reviews and viewership, earning itself the greenlight for season two.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a couple honorable mentions:
- “Lost” (2004-10)
$4 Million/Episode

- “Deadwood” (2004-06)
$4.5 Million/Episode

- “Frasier” (1993-2004)
$5.2 million/Episode

#1: “Game of Thrones” (2011-18)


Other shows may cost more, but there’s no show on television that gets a better bang for its buck than HBO’s epic fantasy drama. In season 1, it made do with a total estimated budget of $50 to $60 million. But after receiving a budget increase for Season 2’s epic battle episode “Blackwater”, the price tag for the show steadily grew, with Seasons 2 through 5 costing anywhere from $6 to $8 million an episode. By season 6, it was $10 million. The high costs are put to good use though, as the show features incredible effects for elements like the White Walkers, Dragons, and huge battle scenes, as well as a stellar cast.
Download

You must register to a corporate account to download. Please login

Related Videos

+ see more

More Top 10