Back during season 1, Game of Thrones cost about $6 million per episode to produce. In season 2, that number was closer to $7 million, with “Blackwater” — the show’s first big action set piece episode — getting produced for $8 million. By the time we got to season 6, HBO was shilling out an average of $10 million per episode. As the show’s fan base has grown, so has its budget.
According to Variety, which just released an absorbing story about the soaring cost of premium TV, the final six episodes of the series cost around $15 million apiece to produce, so this trend is set to continue. As Variety points out, this is an anomaly even in today’s expensive TV landscape, where companies like Netflix are paying $10 million an episode to make The Crown and $8 million per episode for the second season of Stranger Things. Game of Thrones has become big enough to be worth the extra expense.
It helps that the final season have only be six episodes. In fact, if these figures are correct, HBO is still paying less for season 8 than it did for season 6: $90 million vs $100 million. Still, no matter how you look at it, it’s high.
As you may know the episodes of Game of Thrones season 8 are longer than usual. “I imagine they’ll be longer but … I’m not sure [how long],” HBO programming president Casey Bloys said before 8 season started. “Two hours per episode seems like it would be excessive, but it’s a great show, so who knows?” Game of Thrones sound designer Paula Fairfield made similar statements during her visit to Con of Thrones 2017. “The finale, I’ve heard, it will be six shows, but I’ve heard they’ll be feature-length,” she said.
If the episodes are longer — say closer to the 80-minute runtime for “The Dragon and the Wolf,” the season 7 finale — it would explain where all that money is going, particularly if there’s going to be a lot of special effects-heavy action. (And hopefully Ghost.)