Multi-million-dollar epic productions featuring prestigious actors and costly special effects aren't just for multiplexes any more.
Television now serves as home to programming that rivals anything Peter Jackson — the guru behind "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit — can put on the screen, with the budgets to prove it.What drives these huge budgets? According to Shari Anne Brill, president and CEO of Shari Anne Brill Media, it comes down to location, talent and CGI, and that's just for starters.
"The sets and costumes can drive up the price [of] historical dramas," the advertising veteran said in an interview. "Stunts can be expensive." She added that budgets run into deficits when unforeseen problems rear their heads.
"Sometimes you'll go into extra money if the show doesn't test well, or if you have issues with talent and you have to re-shoot entire scenes," she said. "Sometimes there are creative differences, or someone was a prima donna and had to be replaced."
So is it worth spending millions of dollars to create a television show with no guarantee that it will be successful? According to Brill, if the show is a hit, the answer becomes an emphatic 'yes'.
What are some of the most expensive television productions of all time? Read ahead to find out.
"Game of Thrones"
"Game of Thrones" is an HBO fantasy series that has raked in devoted fans since its April 2011 premiere. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the budget for the first season was between $50 million and $60 million. Brill said that it was worth the risk.
"When something hits that well and does well overseas, then that's where all the money is," she said. "Something like HBO is not ad-supported, so there's much more money in back-end stuff like DVDs and overseas sales."
"Band of Brothers"
"Band of Brothers" was a 10-episode World War II miniseries that aired on HBO in 2001. With Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks serving as executive producers, it brought the show a level of gravitas that compared favorably to "Saving Private Ryan," the 1998 runaway critical and box-office hit. The show also used real World War II veterans as consultants, helping to make the show feel realistic.
According to The New York Times, the price tag for "Band of Brothers" was $110 million. The miniseries went on to win six Emmys and sold $250 million worth of DVDs, according to The Los Angeles Times.
"Boardwalk Empire" is an HBO series that chronicles gangster life in Atlantic City during the 1920s. Few people are as qualified to bring the violent Prohibition era to the screen as "GoodFellas" and "Casino" director Martin Scorsese, who directed the $18 million feature-length pilot. Why, some asked, would HBO go to such expensive lengths for a new show?
Part of it may have been pure return on equity. "After 'The Sopranos' was finished, a lot of people felt like there was no point in keeping HBO, and they cancelled it," Brill said. She speculated that the network may have hoped that a new gangster series could attract new subscribers, or win
"Lost" was a massively popular ABC TV show that followed the survivors of a plane crash who are stranded on a desert island. It premiered in 2004, and went on to become a cultural phenomenon and ratings juggernaut throughout its six seasons.
The pilot was directed by J. J. Abrams, and The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that it cost between $10 million and $14 million. This was the most money ever spent on a pilot episode in ABC history, but the loyal following of millions of "Losties" suggests it was worth it.
"The X Factor"
"The X Factor" is a reality show created by Simon Cowell of Fox's "American Idol" fame. The nearly-identical premise involves the search for new singing talent through public auditions, with a $5 million recording contract as the prize. According to Cowell, the budget of the show is $100 million, a figure which he revealed while discussing the ongoing instability in the judges' chairs.
Celebrity judges such as Britney Spears, Paula Abdul and Demi Lovato had come and gone as the show progressed. At one point, rumors circulated that Cowell had offered megastar Beyonce Knowles the opportunity to be a judge for $100 million. In an interview with the television show "Extra", however, he squashed the rumor immediately. "The budget of the show is $100 million," he said. "No one is going to pay $100 million a year for someone."
See the full list: Highly Expensive TV Productions
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