Why Are Shows So Expensive To Produce?

At this millennial day and age, TV shows run more than movies do. ‘Binging’ is a term used to the describe the dangerously excessive yet common form of content absorption. Thanks to OTT mediums like Netflix which offer ad-free seasons of your favourite shows at a decent price, it has become popular and to some extent, ‘satisfying’ to watch 30 odd hours of content in one sitting. Hence, shows have boosted their production value, they want to give the user an extraordinary experience.

The average cost of an original network TV show in 2015 comes in at $3.5 million. Compare that against the budget of some Oscar-winning films. ‘Boyhood’, which took 12 years to complete was made with just a $4 million budget. Even cheaper still was ‘Whiplash’, costing a mere $3.3 million to make.

Show Network Avg. budget per episode Viewer rating (IMDB)
Sense8 Netflix $9,000,000 8.4
Game of Thrones HBO $8,000,000 9.5
Once Upon a Time ABC $4,500,000 8
House of Cards Netflix $4,500,000 9
Gotham FX $4,000,000 8
The Big Bang Theory CBS $4,000,000 8.5
Orange Is The New Black Netflix $4,000,000 8.4
Daredevil Netflix $4,000,000 8.9
Modern Family ABC $3,500,000 8.6
Transparent Amazon $3,500,000 8



The Wachowski’s are known to spend money over films so it’s no surprise that the average cost of a Sense8 episode is around $9 million. The reason Sense8 is one of the most expensive productions is mostly because it runs an octo-narrative approach, which are based in nine different metro cities spread out all over the world and all of these are shot on-location.

Game of Thrones

Huge cast, monumental story, prehistoric setting and dragons. Averaging on a $8 million an episode, Game of Thrones goes on to be the most popular show running at the moment. It’s spectacular view on tragedies and battles gives the viewer a goose bump-inducing experience every episode. Word’s on the street, Season 7 and Season 8 will have fewer episodes but will still cost as much as it did before.


The audience favourite and your typical ‘dinner show’. Friends also, surprisingly, has an average of $10 million. But this has less to do with the production value and more to do with its central high paying six actors earning $1 million each, clearly not retaining their initial per-episode rates.

The Crown

According to Time’s Coinage, the most expensive production in TV’s long existence comes from the non-surprising home of Netflix. The Crown is another impeccably designed and costumed effort that garnered immediate awards attention. The Crown is well set to cost $120 million a season.

Comparing this data with Indian shows. Sacred Games released Season 1 on Netflix this year. It is calculated that the average cost of that season would be 25-30 Crores, which is $3.3M for 7 episodes. Although in contrast, it seems like Indian shows spent lesser money on production, upon release, the series garnered positive reviews from critics, with praise to the performances. The show holds a 90% certified fresh rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.

All these shows are the costliest productions of their arenas but they are not your typical brain-dead mainstream hits. They have rightfully so become audience favourites. Looks like ‘go big to win big’ proved to be accurate.



How Much Does It Cost to Produce Your Favorite TV Show?




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