Holy Flaming Warships! How Expensive Is Game of Thrones, Anyway?

Here's a hint: Dragons and sea battles don't come cheap, even fake ones

By Leslie Gornstein May 28, 2012 3:30 PMTags
Game of ThronesHBO

How big are the budgets for TV shows on channels like HBO? I'm thinking of Game of Thrones, which has a very large cast and films at many locations.
—Corinne H., via Facebook
Indeed; winter may be coming to Westeros, but the Game of Thrones cast has been flying to Iceland, Croatia and Northern Ireland. That's why you're getting such dreamy footage of Jon Snow and Ygritte almost-mashing on a glacier, while, at the same time, the Lannister siblings hiss and spit at each other under the warm sunshine.

And anyone who saw last night's huge bloody, swordy, fiery battle, might ask  exactly how much such a production cost. I can tell you:

According to reports, we're looking at something like $6 million per episode. That may sound like quite a bit, but remember: the pilot cost up to $10 million. And the Boardwalk Empire pilot cost a reported $18 million, with subsequent episodes costing upwards of $5 million.

For last night's epic Battle of the Blackwater, "we went pleading to HBO for more money," series cocreator David Benioff told EW.com. "We made our case why we needed the battle and they obliged."

You asked about cable channels, but they do not hold a monopoly on spending. Fringe producers paid a reported $10 million to make their pilot, and the per-episode budget is said to be around $4 million.

For $4 million per episode, someone on Fringe had better show me a dragon.

I plenty more on the topic, and more, in my new podcast. Have a listen (or subscribe via iTunes):