While television is considered the small screen, sometimes its budget rivals their big screen counterparts. Here are 8 really, really expensive TV shows.
- ER (about $2 million an episode). The longest running medical drama is also one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced. ER ran from 1994 to 2009 and at its peak, it was reported that it cost $13 million just to produce one episode. However, when it started out, it would cost about $2 million an episode, before NBC and Warner Bros re-negotiated a new contract worth $440 million over two years in 1998.
- Lost (about $4 million an episode). ABC’s Lost was also one of the most expensive TV pilots with $14 million, but once the broadcast network ordered more episodes, it cost about $4 million an episode to produce. It seems that it was money well spent because it was the most popular TV show on ABC during its six-year run.
- Marco Polo (about $9 million an episode). Netflix wanted to compete with HBO on spectacle, so they produced Marco Polo at roughly $9 million an episode.
- Game of Thrones (about $6 million an episode). Game of Thrones is by far the most popular TV show on HBO, so the premium cable network goes all out for the fantasy genre TV show. HBO spends between $6 million to $8 million to produce one episode of Game of Thrones.
- Rome (about $9 million an episode). For two seasons, HBO spent about $9 million an episode to bring the historical drama Rome to its subscribers. A big chunk of that money went to its large scale, special effects, and period costumes.
- X-Factor (about $3.5 million an episode). This reality competition TV show was an import from the United Kingdom where it was king. With ratings bigger than Pop Idol (it came to the United States as American Idol), X-Factor US was surely going to be a bigger hit across the pod. Fox spent $3.5 million an episode to make X-Factor a big hit, but was canceled after two years in 2013 because of low ratings.
- Boardwalk Empire (about $5 million an episode). HBO set the record for most expensive TV pilot with $18 million with Boardwalk Empire, but once episodes were produced, the price dropped to $5 million an episode. With period costumes and its sprawling scale, along with big names like Martin Scorsese and Steve Buscemi, you can see where all the money went.
- Friends (about $10 million an episode). During it’s final season in 2004, Friends cost $10 million to produce one episode. A large part of that budget went to the main cast, who demanded $1 million each an episode — that’s $6 million an episode before the cost of production.