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From Game of Thrones to Stranger Things : 7 of the Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made

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From the New York apartments in Friends to the innovative world-building of Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, take a look at the most expensive TV shows ever made.

While it’s not that difficult to wrap our heads around the expensive budgets of blockbuster movies, it’s somewhat harder to grasp just how expensive TV shows end up becoming. Ambitious CGI and special effects are mostly to blame along with exotic filming locations. But others have ramped up high expenses due to buying rights or because its cast ingeniously negotiated for higher pay. Whatever the reason, these are some of the most expensive TV shows ever made.

Friends, Game of Thrones, and Rings of Power: The most expensive TV shows ever made

Friends (approx. USD 10 million per episode)

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

This is the show with the least amount of CGI and post-production but at USD 10 million per episode, it deserves its spot here on this list. There’s nothing expensive about the sets or the production process but it’s the cast’s salaries that skyrocketed the expense. David Schwimmer, who played Ross, was advised to negotiate a new salary when the show was becoming more popular. Instead of just negotiating for himself, he gathered his four other castmates so that they could all go in and negotiate together. Eventually, they were all given the raise. By the last season of the show, they were being paid a million dollars for each episode. That meant half of the USD 10 million expense only went to them.

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The Witcher (approx. USD 10 million per episode)

(Image credit: Netflix)

It kinda puts into perspective just how expensive Friends was if The Witcher is the closest TV show it matches with in terms of expense per episode. Netflix’s adaptation of the popular novel and video Game series is chock-full of CGI and exotic locations thus justifying its hefty expenditure. On top of that, Henry Cavill was reported to have raked in more than a million dollars per episode when Season 2 came around. The show is currently set to return for two more seasons this time with Liam Hemsworth taking over as Geralt of Rivia.

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The Crown (approx. USD 13 million per episode)

(Image credit: Netflix)

Peter Morgan’s historical drama chronicled the late Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne all the way to almost the present day, stopping short of her death in 2022. The expenses were directed mostly to the attention to detail like the sets and costumes worn by the cast. It’s reported, for example, that Elizabeth’s wedding dress in the first episode cost USD 37,000 to recreate. The price is well-justified since the show was nominated for many costume design awards during its run. 

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Game of Thrones (approx. USD 15 million per episode)

(Image credit: HBO)

HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic is, unsurprisingly, one of the most expensive shows the network has ever made. Its special effects, locations, and the eventual rise to stardom of many of its cast members skyrocketed the expense of each episode from USD 5 million in the first season to USD 15 million in the last season. Unfortunately, no one likes to talk about the last season, which is considered one of the most disappointing finales in TV History

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WandaVision (approx. USD 25 million per episode)

(Image credit: Disney+)

Wanda and Vision’s make-believe life that traversed through many eras of TV History wasn’t easy to make nor was it cheap. Back when Marvel’s TV productions on Disney+ were just starting out, WandaVision would set the quality that many fans would come to expect from future MCU TV series—which is why many are quite disappointed with how things have turned out now. Since it’s an MCU show, there’s no shortage of special effects and CGI, which just ramps up the expense, but you also have A-list Hollywood actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany headlining the series. 

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Stranger Things (approx. USD 30 million per episode)

(Image credit: Netflix)

What started out as The Duffer Brothers’ passion project that was basically just them geeking out about what made their childhood awesome has now become a worldwide phenomenon. Netflix started them out with around USD 6 million per episode in Season 1, but as storylines continued to develop and things got more ambitious, the expenses also started to ramp up. That seems justified though because the show is one of the most highly acclaimed and anticipated Netflix originals with its fifth season set to be released in 2025. 

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (approx. USD 60 million per episode)

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Here’s how expensive this show is: it cost more to make than the original Lord of the Rings trilogy combined. The astronomical USD 60 million price tag on each episode is just one of its pricey expenditures. Amazon reportedly shelled out USD 250 million just to obtain the rights for the show beating HBO and Netflix. The company wanted the rights so badly that CEO Jeff Bezos was also included in the negotiations. With the second season set to drop this year, the series has three more seasons left if it continues with its original plan, and costs will probably just get higher and higher. 

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(Main and featured images: Prime Video)

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