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The Top 10 Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made

By Vlad Craciun


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With the evolution of television, TV Shows and series became more and more popular as they kept bringing our favorite characters on screen over and over again as opposed to big screen productions.

The constant stream of episodes are keeping the audiences entertained on a regular basis, so TV shows have lately gotten to the point where they can compare with movies in terms of production costs, some even exceeding their big screen counterparts.

Since making more money is the name of the game for most producers and spending some is the way to make more, there are quite a few networks and studios willing to go the extra mile to create a good quality TV show or series that speaks to the hearts and minds of their audiences. Though not all achieve the desired effect, that still means big bucks spent for their production.

Let’s find out which are The Top 10 Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made – the production costs are calculated on a per episode basis:

10. Sense8 – $9 million


Netflix’s sci-fi drama Sense8 seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but it turned out to be not that good after the first season. The show was created by Lilly and Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski and ran for two seasons only.

Initially Netflix told the producers not to worry about the money, but when the $9 million cost per episode seemed too great compared to the general reception the show received, they decided to allow it to run for only one more season and then put an end to the story.

9. Marco Polo – $9 million

Marco Polo

Another show from Netflix, Marco Polo, followed in the footsteps of the aforementioned Sense8 in terms of budget and audience. Actually Marco Polo did even worse in the audience department. While Sense8 had a small dedicated fanbase, Marco Polo didn’t even create one to begin with.

Without the critical support it would have needed, the show was shut down after its second season and Netflix had to back off with their tail between their legs from the effort to create a big budget alternative to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Marco Polo was close, but only with the spending money part. It had a budget of $9 million per episode.

8. Rome – $9.7 million


It seems that Netflix isn’t the only one spending big bucks on wanna’ be shows that never manage to strike a huge audience. HBO’s Rome was a historical drama TV series which set the action in the 1st century BC, when Rome was making its transition from Republic to Empire.

While the show was broadcast on HBO, BBC Two and Rai 2, it didn’t rise to the expectations despite its big budget of $9.7 million per episode. The fall of Rome seemed to be inevitable with both the empire and the show as well. But despite that, HBO and BBC split costs together, so the result wasn’t such a disaster for either of them.

7. Friends – $10 million


The once ever-present TV show Friends managed to make a huge fuss in the world of television between 1994 and 2004, something not many shows today are able to achieve.

Another thing that the sitcom managed to do – though only in its final season – was to rise the production costs to levels that match today’s other big budget series. That happened mostly due to the high required rates of the six most important actors in the show – each went for $1 million per episode – and Friends got to cost a good $10 million per episode in its 10th and final season.

6. Game of Thrones – $10 million

Game of Thrones

Today’s ubiquitous Game of Thrones, though only at number six on our list now with $10 million per episode, it might jump in top three with the coming of the next season.

The show brags with its phenomenal worldwide audience, its ever improving settings and special effects and its colossal cast and might even up the game when it comes to costs. The show’s main actors are about to become the highest paid TV show actors, dethroning those in Friends, and the show itself might jump a few positions with its cost per episode.

5. The Get Down – $11 million

The Get Down

The Get Down, a musical drama TV series with a plot set in 1970’s Bronx in New York City presenting the rise of the hip hop and disco music during that period, was another one of Netflix’s big budget disasters.

With a tremendous cost of $11 million per episode, poor reviews and no real following, The Get Down got cancelled after its first season. The reason for the high budget seemed to be the very expensive licensed TV music they used in the show.

4. Band of Brothers – $12.5 million

Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers is HBO’s epic and defining World War II series based on historical accurate facts and involving terrifying action, influential characters and great narrative. The producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have paid attention to every possible detail and have taken advantage of the big budget to bring the series to the level of great art.

Despite the seemingly huge $12.5 million per episode budget, the series managed to remain frugal if you think of all the details that the producers succeeded in depicting in its 10 total episodes.

3. E.R. – $13 million


E.R. was a medical drama TV series that aired on NBC between the years 1994 and 2009, spanning over 15 seasons. It became the most nominated TV drama program in history and the longest running primetime medical drama in the United States.

While the series started budget friendly, during its peak seasons, the cost per episode got to an astonishing $13 million. That must have hurt NBC’s pockets so the final seasons of E.R. quieted down to a more acceptable production cost, with a few millions less per episode.

2. The Crown – $13 million

The Crown

The Crown, another one of Netflix’s big budget show attempts, was the one that paid off. While it didn’t captivate audiences in the manner Game of Thrones did, The Crown is a good and well received series.

The historical drama is beautifully designed and well thought out, thing which might lead to it winning a few awards, so Netflix decided to renew it with a third and forth season in advance. The per episode budget of this web TV series rises to a good $13 million.

1. The Pacific – $20 million

The Pacific

Following the success of Band of Brothers, HBO called in the illustrious Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks again, for another World War II mini series. The Pacific focused on the battles through which a small group of American marines went through in the Pacific war theater on islands such as Guadalcanal and Okinawa.

The even more generous budget The Pacific had compared to Band of Brothers made the producers invest more in the special effects of the series and the result was another very appreciated HBO war drama that captured audiences and left them longing for a continuation. The budget the 10 episode miniseries received was an astonishing $20 million per episode, making The Pacific the most expensive show to ever appear on television.

Well, that at least until the guys at Amazon will bring Lord of The Rings to the small screen, in which case that will be the most expensive TV show ever, since the production costs are expected to soar higher than that of the films themselves. Excited? We are too.

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About Vlad Craciun

Vlad has over 7 years of experience writing content about subjects such as travel, cars, motorcycles, tech & gadgets, and his newly discovered passion, watches. He’s in love with two wheeled machines and the freedom and the thrills that motorcycle travel provides. Learn more about Luxatic's Editorial Process.

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