This probably isn’t too surprising. All you need to figure out that the price of Game of Thrones continues to rise is to look at the show — it’s all there on the screen. Plus, drama series, in general, tend to get more expensive with each passing season due how cast and producer salaries typically rise with each contract cycle.
But now Variety has put a hard number on it: $15 million per episode. That’s how much the eighth and final season of GoT is estimated to cost. By comparison, the show’s first season was priced around $6 million per episode. The new budget number is unconfirmed (HBO, like most networks, doesn’t reveal shows budgets). But it certainly feels in the ballpark — EW first reported a couple years back when GoT went north of $10 million per episode and the show has only gotten more lavish since.
Still, that’s an impressive figure. Studios will occasionally spend around $15 million for the pilot episode of a very expensive drama when you include all the start-up costs — such as building the show’s sets. But then the per-episode number will drop significantly. Yet as it has been noted in many ways and many times before, GoT isn’t really like any other show — it’s arguably the most popular series in the world and has shattered Emmy records. And as an out-of-time fantasy hit, HBO knows current and new fans will continue paying to watch GoT for decades. Plus the network owns the lucrative international distribution and merchandising rights to the show. So every penny spent making the final season an epic event likely pays dividends down the road.
As EW first reported Tuesday, the final season is also bringing on board two top directors, Miguel Sapochinik (who helmed the “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome” episodes) and David Nutter (who directed the infamous Red Wedding episode “The Rains of Castamere,” among others). The final season starts shooting in October and will premiere in either late 2018 or 2019.