Binging on television shows is one of the great new American pastimes. TV watching peaked in 2010, with the average household watching more than eight hours and 55 minutes per day, according to Nielsen data. As of 2019, households spent closer to seven hours and 50 minutes watching television each day, but that doesn’t take into account streaming services. Netflix boasts more than 60 million subscribers in the U.S. alone, while Amazon and Hulu are collecting millions of viewers each year, and more services are being introduced regularly.
TV is a numbers game in more ways than one. Creating intricate sets, using new visual effects, and paying famous actors make television an expensive enterprise. Some of the biggest numbers in show budgets are on actors’ paychecks: In the 1990s, well-known stars like Kelsey Grammer were getting $1.6 million for each episode while Jennifer Aniston and her five Friends raked in up to $1 million per episode. In the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, several of its stars made $500,000 per episode, revealing paying talent top dollar has not changed.
Band of Brothers was among the first big-budget shows not on major network television when it began its run on HBO in the late 1990s with an almost unheard of budget of $12 million per episode. Having Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg attached to the project pushed HBO into funding it. The network has since spent even more on making shows like The Pacific and Game of Thrones.
To find out the 25 most expensive TV series of all time, our friends at Stacker conducted independent research via news reports and entertainment outlets and ranked the shows by budget. Ties were not broken when shows shared the same budget. Read on to discover which shows cross the $10 million-per-episode budget threshold — and which takes the cake, with a budget of a whopping $21.7 million per episode.
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