A Closer Look At The “Westworld” Budget

In its first season, HBO’s “Westworld” is proving a costly endeavour for the cable network with a $100 million pricetag for its ten episodes.

New figures have been revealed by The Live Feed which indicate that the 90-minute pilot which aired on Sunday came in at $25 million, in small part due to reshoots, while the other nine episodes sport a price tag of $8-10 million each.

The cost is split between HBO and Warner Bros. Television, with the former paying a significant license fee. HBO’s head of programming, Casey Bloys, said the show is one of HBO’s pricier projects, but it’s not as if the fate of HBO rested on its success:

“I’m sure it’s among the more expensive ones but I can’t tell you that it is the most expensive one we’ve ever done; I would imagine it is [among them]. The notion that it’s Westworld or nothing, I understand the comparisons to Game of Thrones because they’re both big genre pieces, but the fate of the network doesn’t rise or fall on this show. That being said, it would certainly be great if it connected with an audience.”

It may be expensive but it’s not the most costly show on TV – or even most expensive new show this year. NBC still holds the record, paying $13 million per episode for the final two seasons of George Clooney’s run on “E.R.”. Long running hit sitcoms are also costly with the final season of “Friends” costing around $10 million per episode, and the current season of “The Big Bang Theory” coming in at $9 million an episode.

High level production values require big budgets, especially on period pieces which is how HBO’s “Rome” and Netflix’s “Marco Polo” came in at $9 million per episode and “Game of Thrones” in its current season went from $5-6 million per episode in its first season to $10 million per episode for its sixth. Costly individual episodes of shows include the “Boardwalk Empire” pilot at $18 million, and the heavily reshot “Star Trek: Voyager” two-part pilot back in the 1990s which was reported to have a then unprecedented final cost of $23 million.

In terms of expense this year though, Baz Luhrmann’s “The Get Down” takes the cake with Netflix ponying up $120 million for twelve episodes.