The most expensive TV shows of all time

Small screen shows. Big screen budgets

<p>Courtesy Apple TV+</p>

Courtesy Apple TV+

The rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ is pushing the budgets for new TV series into the stratosphere.

From the juggernaut hit Game of Thrones to Avatar: The Last Airbender, we've ranked the priciest small-screen spectaculars on a cost-per-episode basis, and some of the entries may surprise you. Figures for shows made before 2023 have been adjusted for inflation to give you an idea of their budgets in today's money.

Read on to discover where the TV shows of yesterday and today rank among the most expensive ever made.

All dollar amounts in US dollars.

The Last of Us: $10 million (£8.2m) per episode

<p>Courtesy HBO</p>

Courtesy HBO

HBO’s recent big budget bonanza, The Last of Us, which is based on the award-winning video games, reportedly cost more than $10 million (£8.2m) per episode to create.

The apocalyptic survival thriller, which debuted in January 2023, stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay, who both found fame on another HBO hit, Game of Thrones.

A hefty chunk of the budget was undoubtedly spent on the mind-blowing set design. Longtime fans of the franchise were seriously impressed by the meticulous attention to detail and how well the TV show’s settings resembled the dark, dystopian world of the video games.

The Defenders: $10.1 million (£8.3m) per episode



Marvel miniseries The Defenders aired on Netflix in 2017 and reportedly cost $8 million per episode, or $10.1 million (£8.3m) in today's money.

Costly CGI and an ensemble cast, including Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter, drove up the budget.

Along with a slew of other Marvel shows, The Defenders was removed from Netflix in 2022 and is now available on the streaming platform Disney+ after Disney regained the rights to comic book characters such as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Halo: $10.9 million (£9m) per episode

<p>Paramount +</p>

Paramount +

The long-awaited Halo TV show, based on the best-selling video game franchise, finally hit Paramount+ in March 2022.

Packed with CGI and pulse-racing action sequences, the video game adaptation reportedly cost more than $10 million (£8.2m) per episode to produce. That's $10.9 million (£9m) in today's money.

Despite mixed reviews from viewers and critics alike, a second season is set to air in March this year.

The Big Bang Theory: $10.9 million (£9m) per episode

<p>Warner Bros. Television</p>

Warner Bros. Television

Nerdy sitcom The Big Bang Theory broadcast an impressive 279 episodes between 2007 and 2019.

By the time the show was nearing its end, a single 30-minute episode reportedly cost a hefty $9 million to produce, which is about $10.9 million (£9m) today.

Unlike other shows in our round-up, rather than costly CGI or expensive filming locations, the astronomical cost was largely due to its stars' salaries.

The Witcher: $11.7 million (£9.6m) per episode



Fantasy The Witcher, based on the popular books by Andrzej Sapkowski, has been a huge hit for Netflix since the first season dropped in 2019.

The show's second season, which premiered in December 2021, allegedly had a $10 million per episode budget. That's $11.7 million (£9.6m) when adjusted for inflation.

CGI, set design, and leading man Henry Cavill's salary accounted for the costs. However, the fate of the fantasy show now hangs in the balance after it was revealed Cavill would be replaced by actor Liam Hemsworth in the fourth season of the show, much to the dismay of fans. Cavill reportedly departed the show in favour of Amazon's upcoming Warhammer 40,000 series.

1883: $11.7 million (£9.6m) per episode

<p>Emerson Miller / Paramount+</p>

Emerson Miller / Paramount+

Yellowstone prequel 1883 reportedly cost more than $10 million per episode to create when it premiered on Paramount+ in 2021. That's $11.7 million (£9.6m) in today's money.

In comparison, Yellowstone reportedly cost a much more modest $3.5 million (£2.8m) per episode.

With an all-star cast including Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Rita Wilson, it's hardly surprising the budget for the Western drama was so huge.

The Wheel of Time: $11.7 million (£9.6m) per episode

<p>Amazon Prime Video</p>

Amazon Prime Video

The fantasy series The Wheel of Time, based on Robert Jordan's novels, aired on Amazon Prime Video in 2021.

The first season cost around $10 million per episode to make, or $11.7 million (£9.6m) in today's money.

The show features the star power of Rosamund Pike of Gone Girl and Bond fame, and a second season dropped in 2023.

Sense8: $11.7 million (£9.6m) per episode



Sense8, created by the Wachowski sisters and J Michael Straczynski, dropped on Netflix in 2015.

The streamer ordered 12 episodes of the sci-fi drama, with no expense spared. The Wachowskis are famed for their big-budget productions, which include The Matrix Trilogy and Speed Racer, and Sense8 was no exception.

The mind-bending show reportedly cost around $9 million per episode, $11.7 million (£9.6m) in today's money, with the use of 4K technology and special cameras for filming driving up the cost. Unfortunately, some viewers found the concept baffling, and the show was cancelled after just two seasons.

Marco Polo: $11.8 million (£9.7m) per episode



Netflix’s historical drama Marco Polo became the streamer's then-most expensive show in 2014 after the 10-episode series cost at least $9 million per episode to make. That’s a hefty $11.8 million (£9.7m) today.

Despite the colossal budget, the show was a major flop and was axed after two seasons.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: $12 million+ (£10m+)



The hotly anticipated Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV series finally dropped on Disney+ in December 2023, just in time for the holiday season.

Adapted from Rick Riordan's beloved children's book series, the show reportedly cost between $12 million (£10m) and $15 million (£12.4m) per episode to produce, with a significant portion of the budget dedicated to special effects sequences.

A movie adaptation of the Percy Jackson series hit screens in 2010, boasting a $95 million (£74.4m) budget. As the small screen adaptation features eight episodes in its first season, it's surpassed the blockbuster budget of the movie.

Vinyl: $12.9 million (£10.6m) per episode

<p>Paramount Television/HBO</p>

Paramount Television/HBO

A Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger collaboration series that chronicles the 1970s rock and roll music scene sounds like a surefire hit, right? Well, 2016’s Vinyl was actually a massive flop.

Despite costing $10 million per episode, or $12.9 million (£10.6m) today, the show drew a pitiful 650,000 viewers on average.

Needless to say, HBO axed it after just one season.

Euphoria: $13.4 million (£11m) per episode

<p>Courtesy HBO</p>

Courtesy HBO

A season of HBO's Gen Z drama Euphoria reportedly costs $165 million to make, or $11 million per episode. As it premiered in 2019, that's $13.4 million (£11m) per episode in today's money.

The staggering cost is due to the captivating cinematography and the salaries of the stellar ensemble cast, which includes Zendaya, who has won two Emmys for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her role as recovering teen addict Rue Bennett.

A third season of the hit show is in the works but likely won't premiere until 2025.

The Boys: $13.4 million (£11m) per episode

<p>Amazon Prime Video</p>

Amazon Prime Video

Superhero spoof The Boys is a smash hit for Amazon, though it doesn’t come cheap.

A single episode reportedly costs around $11 million, or $13.4 million (£11m) in today's money, as the first season aired in 2019.

The show features a lot of CGI and special effects, contributing to the high cost.

Rome: $14.4 million (£11.9m) per episode

<p>HBO/BBC Two</p>


The HBO-BBC collaboration Rome cost a small fortune to make, with a budget of $9 million per episode, or $14.4 million (£11.9m) in today's money.

In some ways, the historical epic's colossal budget paid off as it won a slew of awards, including four Emmys and seven Primetime Emmys, as well as a gong from the Visual Effects Society.

However, just two of the planned five seasons aired between 2005 and 2007, with the overwhelming production costs to blame.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: $15 million (£12.4m) per episode



Avatar: The Last Airbender, hit Netflix in February 2024 and is one of the streaming service's most expensive shows, with an estimated budget of $15 million (£12.4 million) per episode.

The live-action adaptation of the beloved animated series incorporated cutting-edge LED technology during its filming to elevate the quality of its visual effects. The virtual production stage employed for the series currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest LED stage of its kind, using imaging technology seen in other big budget series such as The Mandalorian.


Star Wars Disney + Shows: $15 million + (£12.4m +) per episode



It goes without saying that anything in the Star Wars cinematic universe will have a gigantic budget attached to it, and the franchise's small-screen entries are no exception.

Disney+ shows such as The Mandalorian (pictured), Obi-Wan KenobiThe Book of Boba Fett, and Andor cost $15 million (£12.4m) per episode to produce on average, with CGI and set design naturally contributing to the huge expense.

Some episodes of the rebel spy series Andor reportedly cost up to $25 million (£20.6m) to craft.

The Crown: $15.5 million (£12.8m) per episode



Netflix smash-hit The Crown chronicles the lives of the modern British royal family.

The fifth season of the show was released in 2022 and was the most expensive, clocking in at $143 million to produce. That's a suitably lavish $14.3 million per episode, or $15.5 million (£12.8m) today.

The attention to detail behind the award-winning show's sets and costumes is a huge factor in the high costs.

The Sandman: $16.3 million (£13.4m) per episode



Based on the comic books by Neil Gaiman, dark fantasy series The Sandman dropped on Netflix in 2022.

The long-awaited small-screen adaptation reportedly cost $15 million per episode to produce, or around $16.3 million (£13.4m) today.

The large cast, which included Tom Sturridge, Jenna Coleman, and Gwendoline Christie, drove up costs. Extensive CGI was also a factor in the massive budget.

Friends: $16.5 million (£13.6m) per episode

<p>Warner Bros. Television</p>

Warner Bros. Television

By the time the final season of beloved sitcom Friends aired in 2004, it cost a staggering $10 million per episode to produce. That’s a not-so-wallet-friendly $16.5 million (£13.6m) in today’s money.

The cost wasn’t down to set design, locations, or impressive CGI, but the hefty salaries of the cast. By season 10, stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer all took home a cool $1 million per episode.

One Piece: $17.3 million (£14.3m) per episode



One Piece, based on the popular manga series by Eiichiro Oda, dropped on Netflix in September 2023.

Each episode of the pirate adventure saga reportedly cost an incredible $17.3 million (£14.3m) to produce.

CGI and action-packed fight sequences are likely a significant factor in the sizable budget.

The Morning Show: $17.5 million (£14.4m) per episode

<p>Apple TV +</p>

Apple TV +

American drama series The Morning Show is Apple TV’s flagship series.

The second season was released in 2021 and reportedly cost $15 million per episode to produce, or $17.5 million (£14.4m) per episode today.

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon star in the show and reportedly take home more than $2 million (£1.6m) each per episode.

Game of Thrones: $18.2 million (£15m) per episode



HBO fantasy epic Game of Thrones boasted a $6 million per episode budget when it first started.

As its popularity skyrocketed, so did its costs. The final season, which aired in 2019, cost an incredible $15 million per episode, or $18.2 million (£15m) in today's money.

Showrunners spent a fortune on set design, CGI, and epic battle scenes, while the cast also enjoyed juicy paycheques.

See: $18.2 million (£15m) per episode

<p>Apple TV +</p>

Apple TV +

Apple TV reportedly spent a jaw-dropping $15 million per episode on sci-fi series See. That’s $18.2 million (£15m) per episode in today’s money.

The show first aired in 2019, with the third and final season dropping in 2022.

Expensive special effects bumped up the show's production budget, while the salary of Jason Momoa of Aquaman and Game of Thrones fame was another significant cost.

The Continental: $20 million (£16.5m) per episode



The Continental, a spin-off series of the John Wick film franchise, premiered on the streaming platform Peacock in 2023.

The miniseries consists of three episodes, each with a budget exceeding $20 million (£16.5m). The show's substantial $60 million budget surpasses the costs of the first two John Wick movies, which were made with budgets of up to $30 million (£24.7m) and $40 million (£32.9m) respectively.

Set in the 1970s, The Continental is a prequel to the action-packed film franchise and stars Hollywood icon Mel Gibson.

The Get Down: $20.6 million (£17m) per episode



Academy Award-winning director Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge! and Elvis fame is no stranger to a big-budget bonanza. His 1970s-set musical drama The Get Down, in collaboration with Netflix, had an initial projected budget of $11 million per episode. This cost included visual effects, set design, and music rights.

However, Deadline reported that the cost per episode soared to a staggering $16 million because of filming shutdowns, staff changes, and rewrites. That’s around $20.6 million (£17m) in today’s money.

The cost proved too mammoth for Netflix, and the show was axed after just one season.

Westworld: $21.7 million (£17.9m) per episode



HBO’s ambitious Western sci-fi mash-up Westworld had some serious star power behind it. The series was co-produced by JJ Abrams, and its star-studded cast included Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, and James Marsden.

The show's fourth season, which aired in 2022, reportedly cost $160 million (£132m) to create. That works out to a whopping $20 million per episode, or $21.7 million (£17.9m) today.

While praised for its mind-bending CGI, the staggering production costs were ultimately the show's downfall.Plans for a fifth and final season were recently axed, much to the shock of fans.

House of the Dragon: $21.7 million (£17.9m) per episode

<p>Courtesy HBO</p>

Courtesy HBO

HBO’s long-awaited Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon finally premiered in August 2022.

The 10-episode first season’s budget clocked in at just under $20 million per episode. Adjusted for inflation, that's a chunky $21.7 million (£17.9m).

The series focuses on House Targaryen, a royal family infamous for its ferocious pet dragons. The CGI of these mythical creatures undoubtedly drove up production costs. However, a production insider at HBO revealed that the network’s experience in creating other epic fantasy shows like His Dark Materials and Westworld helped keep the budget from skyrocketing as high as rival shows like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Band of Brothers: $21.8 million (£18m) per episode



The World War II miniseries Band of Brothers was created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and had a blockbuster budget of $125 million, or $12.5 million per episode. That’s an incredible $21.8 million (£18m) per episode in today’s money.

The war epic, which aired in 2001, featured a stellar cast, including Damian Lewis, Tom Hardy, and David Schwimmer. Set design and European filming locations also pushed the budget up.

The investment paid off, though, and the show scooped a string of Golden Globe and Emmy awards. It also spawned two spin-off series, but more on those soon...

ER: $25 million (£20.6m) per episode

<p>Warner Bros. Television</p>

Warner Bros. Television

Medical drama ER was one of the longest-running TV shows ever, airing for an impressive 15 seasons between 1994 and 2009.

ER made its lead star George Clooney a household name, and as Clooney’s popularity skyrocketed, so did the show’s budget.

At its peak, ER cost $13 million per episode to create, a pulse-racing $25 million (£20.6m) in today's money.

Marvel Disney + shows: $25 million (£20.6m) per episode

<p>Disney/Marvel Studios</p>

Disney/Marvel Studios

Since its launch in 2019, Disney+ has been busy developing Marvel television shows to entice subscribers – and no expense is spared.

Shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (pictured), Loki, and WandaVision are all said to cost a remarkable $25 million (£20.6m) per episode.

With such mammoth budgets, the shows are on par with what the studio spends on its superhero movies.

Masters of the Air: $27.8 million (£21.8m) per episode

<p>Courtesy Apple TV+</p>

Courtesy Apple TV+

The highly anticipated Band of Brothers spin-off series Masters of the Air dropped on Apple TV+ this year.

Like its predecessor, the show boasted a massive budget, in this instance $250 million (£196m), or $27.8 million (£21.8m) per episode.

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the gripping WWII drama follows bomber crews on dangerous missions to destroy targets inside Nazi-occupied Europe. Its impressive cast includes Austin Butler, best known for his Oscar-nominated role in Elvis, and Barry Keoghan of Saltburn fame.

The Pacific: $28.4 million (£22.3m) per episode

<p>Dreamworks Television/Playtone</p>

Dreamworks Television/Playtone

Before Masters of the Air hit screens, another Band of Brothers spin-off titled The Pacific aired in 2010.

Naturally, recreating World War II in all its gritty and gruesome detail doesn’t come cheap. The miniseries cost a total of $200 million or a mammoth $20 million per episode.

That’s an incredible $28.4 million (£22.3m) in today's money.

Stranger Things: $32.6 million (£26.9m) per episode



The supernatural smash hit Stranger Things was the most-watched show of 2022, with over 52 billion minutes of the series devoured by viewers.

When it first aired in 2016, it boasted a $6 million per episode budget, reportedly doubling for seasons two and three.

The fourth volume hit Netflix in May 2022, and the nine-episode season reportedly cost $270 million to produce, around $30 million per episode. Adjusted for inflation, that's an eye-watering $32.6 million (£26.9m).

Secret Invasion: $35.3 million (£29.1m) per episode

<p>Courtesy Disney+</p>

Courtesy Disney+

The latest Disney+ big-budget bonanza, Secret Invasion, cost a stunning $212 million (£174m) to produce. The first season, which aired in June 2023, featured six episodes, meaning each cost a jaw-dropping $35.3 million (£29.1m).

Unlike other Marvel shows, the spy series features little CGI, though the salaries of stars including Samuel L. Jackson, Emilia Clarke, and Olivia Colman likely contributed to the hefty costs.

Despite its stellar cast and mammoth budget, the show was widely considered a flop, and a second season looks unlikely.

1923: up to $38.1 million (£31.4m) per episode



Yellowstone got a second spin-off in the form of 1923, released in December 2022.

Each episode of the Western reportedly cost up to $35 million, or $38.1 million (£31.4m) in today's money.

Filming in multiple countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malta during the pandemic was a factor in the eye-watering cost. Meanwhile, leading stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren each took home $1 million (£824k) per episode for their work on the show.

Citadel: $50 million (£41.2m) per episode

<p>Courtesy Amazon Prime Video</p>

Courtesy Amazon Prime Video

Amazon splashed out an incredible $300 million (£247m) on its action-packed sci-fi spy thriller Citadel.

The first season of the show aired in 2023 and featured six episodes, each costing an eye-watering $50 million (£41.2m). A second season is already in the works.

Pulse-racing action sequences are thought to be a major factor in the staggering cost, while the series also boasts the star power of Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: $63.2 million (£52.1m)

<p>Amazon Prime Video</p>

Amazon Prime Video

Taking the top spot by a long shot is Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, released in September 2022.

The first season reportedly cost an astonishing $465 million, which doesn’t even factor in the $250 million Amazon paid to secure the rights to J R R Tolkien’s fantasy epic.

Season one featured eight episodes, meaning each had an eye-watering $58.1 million budget, or around $63.2 million (£52.1m) today.

Now discover the most expensive movie flops and why they bombed at the box office