How Much Does It Cost to Produce an Episode of Your Favourite TV Show?

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how much does it cost to produce a tv showTelevision: always on hand to offer a fabulously aspirational or unimaginably grim alternative to the troubles of daily life this side of the screen.

But such hope and/or destruction doesn’t come cheap. Better and more ambitious shows from a growing roster of minted production companies have led to an out-and-out budget war. Far from the wobbly sets of yesteryear’s ‘television plays,’ today’s series rival the costs of Hollywood blockbusters.

Since we last looked at the costs of the top TV shows in 2015, the budget of Game of Thrones almost doubled to £11.8 million per episode – and the show has come to a bewildering end that left audiences asking if they’d got their money’s worth.

The final season is the worst rated on Rotten Tomatoes, scoring just 58% from the critics and 33% from audiences. All the same, the finale, which was the lowest-rated GoT episode ever with a mere 4.2/10 on IMDb, broke HBO’s viewership records regardless of its perceived shortcomings.

Pound for pound, however, it’s a British show that offers the best value for its producers’ money. Peaky Blinders costs around one-tenth of the Game of Thrones budget and rates at 8.8 on IMDb. “Reservoir Dogs with tweed waistcoats,” as the Telegraph’s TV critic put it, hinting at the gritty low-budget appeal, “gets better with each passing series.”

Our new guide to the cost of producing the best and worst rated shows on TV in 2019 reiterates this sense that it’s not always the size of your production budget that counts, but what you do with it. The costly robots of Westworld are rivalled in ratings by the non-union zombies of The Walking Dead for a third of the price; Lost In Space was just as mediocre as the decidedly more earthbound NCIS: New Orleans.

And in the short-term, with the complete series rating hovering around 9.5 on IMDb, Game of Thrones still manages to top our new table as both the highest rated and highest costing show. But when you consider the bitter taste on the tongues of millions of disappointed HBO subscribers, would a more thought-through finale have been a better investment than all that extra cash? Or are GoT fans just sour because (as experts suggest) they’re going through an end-of-show ‘break-up’?

UK TV production costs 2019

Methodology

 

We gathered our research primarily from production news sources such as Bloomberg, Variety, the BBC, and Reuters. We then supplemented these figures with progress reports released by the California, Louisiana and New York state film commissions. Finally, we corroborated the numbers by reviewing interviews featuring the show runners and producers discussing their budgets.

 

Sources

 

Berman, N. (2016). Why It Costs Some Animation Shows Up To $2 Million To Make A Single Episode. moneyinc.com

Biller, D (2015). Low Budget TV Shows That Are Better Than Most Huge Blockbuster Series. io9.gizmodo.com

Briggs, N. (2014). Big Budget Drama Outlander films in Scotland. BBC.com

CityBusiness. (2018). Warner Bros. sticking with Louisiana for two TV shows. neworleanscitybusiness.com

Clarendon, D. (2016). How Shonda Rhimes Manges $350 Million of ABC’s Money Per Year. wetpaint.com

Collins, S. (2015). Empire and its phenomenal ratings a top priority for Fox. latimes.com

Drama Quarterly. (2015). Inside Steven Knight’s critically acclaimed period drama Peaky Blinders. dramaquartlerly.com

Empire State Development. (2018). New York Film Tax Credit – Quarterly Report – 2018. esd.ny.gov

Esmeralda, J. (2018). 25 Little Details Only True Fans Know About Vikings. screenrant.com

Fitzpatrick, K. (2018).  American Gods Loses Another Showrunner Amid Reports of On-set Turmoil. dcreencrush.com

Huang, H. (2017). How Amazon Rates TV Shows. thomsonreuters.com

James, A. Netflix’s all-time most expensive shows. looper.com

Jeffery, M. (2019). The 15 Most Expensive TV Shows of All Time – Ranked. digitalspy.com

Lemisch, A. (2018). California Film Commision – Film and Television Tax Credit Programs – Progress Report. film.ca.gov

Lloyd, R. (2018). Netflix’s Decidedly 21st Century reboot is worth blasting off with. latimes.com

Meza, E. (2015). Homeland Shoot Prompts Berlin to Add $1.63 million a Year to Film and TV Funding. variety.com

Mitrokostas, S. (2018).  14 of the Most Expensive TV Episodes of All Time. insider.com

Reddit. (2019). So, this is the budget for season 9, can anyone confirm if it’s higher or lower than previous seasons?. reddit.com

Ryan, M. Littleton, Cynthia (2017). TV Series Budgets Hit the Breaking Point as Costs Skyrocket in Peak TV Era. variety.com

Ryan, M. (2017). Will Out-of-Control Episode Costs Kill Peak TV?. variety.com

Scott, M. (2017). TNT series Claws Files Paperwork to Shoot Season 2 in Louisiana. nola.com

Smith, G. (2019).  It Takes Deep Pockets to Fight Netflix. bloomberg.com

Verrier, R. (2014). Amazon is a rising star in Hollywood. latimes.com

(2016). The astronomical cost of making The Big Bang Theory. news.com.au

Sweney, M. (2018). Will the new TV Golden Age produce the first $20m per show series?. theguardian.com

 

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Barbara Davidson

About 

Babs is a Senior Content Writer and financial guru. She loves exploring fresh ways to save more and enjoy life on a budget! When she’s not writing, you’ll find her binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! 

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The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.