We can all agree that Game of Thrones is unlike any other television show out there.
It’s more like 10 mini movies than it is a TV programme – it’s got mind-blowing CGI, elaborate costumes, stunning backdrops and first-class actors.
You would assume that a lot of the cost to make such a show would go to the salaries of the actors, but it seems that’s not the case.
Actors, costumes, and exotic locations take a back seat when it comes to budget, and special effects takes the front – with a whopping budget of $10 million per episode (£6.8 million) for this years’ sixth season.
According to finance website Money Inc, this is where all the money goes:
The CGI industry acts as an assembly line with a team of 10-12 who processes shots through several stages: Modeling, Tracking, Animation, Dust Busting, BgPrep, FX, Compositing, Lighting, etc. The average time for this process within the team is at least four weeks if not more. This equates to around 1,600 man hour at a minimum without overtime. At $50 per hour, per person, that equates to a minimum of $80K per shot. If a Game of Thrones episode has 10-minutes of CGI, which equates to $800,000.
There are other additional factors that drive up the cost including computer storage space per episode, accounting, human resources, overhead and the multiple other departments that contribute to the successful launch of a show.
In 2011, the cost per episode of GOT was estimated at $6 million (or £4.1 million – that’s already two to three times a typical cable show), but viewer demand for more magnificent battle scenes and believable dragons pushed that cost to $10 million for Season six. In Season two, the famous Blackwater battle scene cost $2 million alone, bringing that single episode’s budget to $8 million.
Considering each season has ten episodes, a whole season (given the episode budget of $10 million) would amount to $100 million.
Put that in comparison with Breaking Bad, which cost $3 million per episode according to Variety, or early episodes of Big Bang Theory, which cost $2 million.
But when you consider what the HBO team is packing in for that money, it’s a bit of a marvel.
Rivaling with the most expensive shows of all time, GOT matches Friends when it comes to budget. But unlike the American sitcom, GOT packs international filming, costume design, 10 times the cast and CGI. For the same amount of money.
The main difference? Shows like Friends and E.R. (which had an episode budget of $13 million – or £8.9 million) spend nearly all of their money on the actors. In the final season of Friends, the main cast made $1 million per episode – that’s $6 million right there, more than half of their $10 million budget. And in E.R, George Clooney was paid $13 million per episode, which is pretty much that show’s whole budget.
Maybe it’s time fans stopped pirating GOT and pay to watch it once in a while… Or maybe not.