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Old April 9 2008, 01:06 PM   #1
JoeZhang
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Most expensive show currently on air?

On another thread, someone mentioned that CSI costs $10 million per episode - which got me thinking.. what's the most expensive show currently on air?

Lost?
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Old April 9 2008, 01:35 PM   #2
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

As I replied in that thread, I believe that poster was way off on the budget numbers. Lost's two-part pilot episode cost $12 million and it was the most expensive pilot ABC had ever made. Most pilots cost a lot less than that, and per episode budgets certainly don't approach that range. A big budget network series will typically have a per episode budget of $3-4 million.
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Old April 9 2008, 01:39 PM   #3
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

Back in 98 ER was costing 13 million per episode, Simpsons was expensive that was until they outsourced the animation to Korea. A lot of what drives up cost is the price of over-paid actors and expensive guest stars which is why Desperate Housewives was so expensive. The new Terminator show was very pricey but Band of Brothers produced by Steven Spielberg is supposed to be one of the most expensive, costing 125 million for a mini series. Then there was the original Battlestar by Glen Larson, in today's dollars, adjusted for inflation the show would still be one of the highest costing productions ever made.

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Old April 9 2008, 01:44 PM   #4
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

Out Of My Vulcan Mind wrote: View Post
Lost's two-part pilot episode cost $12 million and it was the most expensive pilot ABC had ever made.
You're right about Lost but the thing about it is, if you put the series in context that's not so expensive compared to some of the really pricey productions. Lost blew most of its budget early on with the pilot, the whole plane crash, explosion fx etc....once the series was green-lit it continued on for many seasons at a cheaper cost, its production costs fell dramatically because they already had the fx of the wreckage, the sets built etc
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Old April 9 2008, 02:14 PM   #5
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

Lost would still be an expensive show to shoot on a per episode basis. Most big budget series will have a per episode budget of $3-4 million. Looking around at the numbers it looks like the per episode budgets for established mega-hits can soar up to over $ 10 million, so the poster who mentioned that number for CSI may be right - the big cost factor in these cases, and this would go for ER at its peak too, would be the huge per episode salaries commanded by the producers and stars.

So it looks like $3-4 million for a new big budget series and perhaps just over $10 million for established mega-hits.
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Old April 9 2008, 05:25 PM   #6
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

I don't think it costs 10 million+ for TV shows. Even with all the "Friends" making insane amounts of money I doubt the rest of the show costs that much.

I would guess 4 million is the normal, but they might have big actors getting big bucks.
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Old April 9 2008, 05:38 PM   #7
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

Not sure, but ER comes to mind. I know Warner Bros got a huge license fee from NBC back when it was mega popular (iirc, 10-12mil per episode), and I haven't heard any other show topping what they got back then.
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Old April 9 2008, 07:11 PM   #8
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

The West Wing average per-episode cost was reportedly in the neighborhood of $8-10 million during the mid to later years, including roughly $8 million from the network and at least $1-2 million burned by the studio as a long-term investment (Bravo repeats, DVD sales, and syndication rapidly earned this back).
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Old April 9 2008, 10:01 PM   #9
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

One thing about Lost that makes it more expensive than other shows is the high level of on location shooting. At least half of every episode is filmed outside. On location shooting can be expensive.
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Old April 9 2008, 10:19 PM   #10
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

Out Of My Vulcan Mind wrote: View Post
As I replied in that thread, I believe that poster was way off on the budget numbers. Lost's two-part pilot episode cost $12 million and it was the most expensive pilot ABC had ever made. Most pilots cost a lot less than that, and per episode budgets certainly don't approach that range. A big budget network series will typically have a per episode budget of $3-4 million.
I don't know enough about television budgets to say what is a high estimate and what is not. But for a point of reference, the first season of HBO's Rome, which built entire elaborate sets, cost about 100 million for the first season (12 episodes).

Edit:

[Rome] boasts the largest standing film set in the world, comprising five acres of backlot and six soundstages at the world-famous Cinecittà Studios.
The series required over 4,000 pieces of wardrobe, designed by Oscar-nominated costume designer April Ferry; 2,500 pieces were used in the first two episodes alone. Approximately 1,250 pairs of shoes and sandals were made in Bulgaria.
Rome used a peak of 40 horses in one scene, and on the largest day of shooting, 750 actors/extras were used for the scene of Caesar's triumph.
The Roman coins were all made at the Vatican mint, and have the likeness of the series' Caesar, Ciarán Hinds, stamped on them.
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Old April 9 2008, 10:25 PM   #11
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
On another thread, someone mentioned that CSI costs $10 million per episode - which got me thinking.. what's the most expensive show currently on air?

Lost?
What? Dude, way off. I am a HUGE fan of CSI and have been following it for years as well as having been lucky in actually getting to know some behind the scenes people involved. The average ep costs about 3.3 million, maybe 3.5, but NOWHERE near 10 million. Even with the ratings they get plus syndication, 10 mill would be way too much.

ETA: Re Rome, which I loved, that was on cable and they have more money, plus they spent a shitload of money on sets, which - in the end - I guess never managed to amortize fully, seeing as it didn't last beyond a 2nd season. That said, I can't see a network show spending more than 4 mill per ep (for a drama) to recoup its money.
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Old April 9 2008, 10:28 PM   #12
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

bigdaddy wrote: View Post
I don't think it costs 10 million+ for TV shows. Even with all the "Friends" making insane amounts of money I doubt the rest of the show costs that much.
That's true, but in the last season they were getting, what was it, a million an episode each? And it's only a 20 minute show AND it's shot in front of an audience. That is some serious $ per minute of work
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Old April 9 2008, 10:32 PM   #13
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

idreamedmusic wrote: View Post
JoeZhang wrote: View Post
On another thread, someone mentioned that CSI costs $10 million per episode - which got me thinking.. what's the most expensive show currently on air?

Lost?
What? Dude, way off. I am a HUGE fan of CSI and have been following it for years as well as having been lucky in actually getting to know some behind the scenes people involved. The average ep costs about 3.3 million, maybe 3.5, but NOWHERE near 10 million. Even with the ratings they get plus syndication, 10 mill would be way too much.
That's what I originally thought - although the info about ER threw me off and made me think CSI might have scaled to that very unusual level.

TheArsenal, yes, HBO puts a lot of money into some of their mini-series and series. Rome and Band of Brothers were hugely expensive TV productions. But broadcast network shows with seasons of 22 to 26 episodes usually come in below $4 million per episode, even at the big budget end. There may be one or two exceptions, but that's generally the upper range.
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Old April 9 2008, 10:36 PM   #14
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

Pingfah wrote: View Post
bigdaddy wrote: View Post
I don't think it costs 10 million+ for TV shows. Even with all the "Friends" making insane amounts of money I doubt the rest of the show costs that much.
That's true, but in the last season they were getting, what was it, a million an episode each? And it's only a 20 minute show AND it's shot in front of an audience. That is some serious $ per minute of work
Thing about comedy shows filmed in front of a live audience vs dramas that you have to take into account is the fact that comedies are extremely cheap to produce. Established and already built sets, no SFX, almost no location shoots. Hence comedy actors tend to get more (strike me down, but I believe Kelsey Grammar was the first actor to get more than a mill per ep for Frasier). Well deserved, but they can afford that sorta money seeing as they save on everything else.
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Old April 9 2008, 10:40 PM   #15
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Re: Most expensive show currently on air?

True, although in the case of Frasier it was only one indispensable star, with Friends they had 6. That's already outstripped the budget of any star trek episode, and it's only half as long, a fraction of the cast and has no special effects. $6 million per episode just on the stars is unbelievable.
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