Peak TV may be great for viewers, with endless series to choose from, but it's a giant headache for studios, which have seen costs soar in recent years. A new report from Variety breaks down why expenses are so high, and reveals the jaw-dropping numbers behind some of the most popular shows on television. (Not-so-surprising spoiler alert: A certain HBO fantasy series is insanely expensive to produce.)
According to Variety, each episode from the upcoming eighth and final season of "Game of Thrones" will cost a whopping $15 million -- and potentially more. That's a far cry from the show's first season, which had an average price tag of around $6 million per episode.
With "Thrones" specifically, such a dramatic increase in budget is thanks to the production growing more elaborate as the show has gained in popularity, with filming now spanning four continents and an ever-growing roster of actors and crew members to employ. But while that series is a bit of an outlier, making up for such wild spending with a solid revenue stream, some anonymous execs who spoke with Variety worried about the precedent set by such lavish spending -- and how the industry would keep itself afloat in the wake of the ever-increasing glut of programming.
The report notes that streaming platforms are by far the biggest spenders, shelling out huge sums to secure big name talent. But while A-list film stars and award-winning directors come with a high price tag (Robert DeNiro, for example, is expected to make $775,000 per episode for his untitled David O. Russell crime drama on Amazon), that's only one piece of the increasingly-expensive puzzle.
... [C]osts are soaring for everything from location scouting to renting equipment to securing post-production facilities. A wide range of services takes longer to secure and costs more even when it's in hand — particularly transportation-related expenses.
Another reason production costs are rising: a lack of experience on the part of showrunners and crews in making the most of every hour of production time. Industry insiders privately speculate that the strain on the talent pool of line producers and technical, craft and stunt crew members has been a factor in what seems to be a jump in the number of on-set accidents in recent months.
Simply put, it's impossible to have seasoned people at the helm of every show when the volume of scripted series production spiked 71% between 2011 and 2016 — or from 266 series in 2011 to 455 in 2016, according to FX Networks Research. The 2017 tally is projected to top 500.
We suppose it's comforting to know that even those who are making Peak TV are overwhelmed by it, too.
The entire report is fascinating and worth a read. Check it out over at Variety.