The top 5 most expensive TV shows (Hint: ‘Rings of Power’ rules)

With content as one of the key differentiators among streaming video services, a new study by VPN Overview ranked the most expensive TV shows to produce per episode over the last two decades. It found Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” perhaps unsurprisingly, outpaced all other series budgets on a per episode basis by far.

The Lord of the Rings spin-off series is set more than a thousand years before the events of the popular film trilogy. According to VPN, each episode had a budget price tag of $60 million – “making it the most expensive TV production ever” and more than twice that of the second biggest budget series.

The production cost of “The Rings of Power” have been noted before, with a Wall Street Journal report citing the fantasy series first season as costing $715 million, with almost a third of that coming from a rights agreement with Warner Bros and the estate of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. The premiere, which debuted September 1 on Amazon Prime Video, attracted 25 million viewers globally. However, data from Samba TV recently noted that the show might have some work to do in terms of attracting both younger audiences and those outside the existing Lord of the Rings fanbase.

For the second highest budget per episode there was a five-way tie – all between shows on the Disney+ streaming service, most of which are focused on Marvel universe characters and storylines. The five shows each had a budget of $25 million per episode and were produced by Disney with either Marvel Studios or Lucasfilm. They include “Hawkeye” (2021), “The Falcon and The Winer Soldier” (2021), “WandaVision” (2021), “Loki” (2021), and “Obi Wan Kenobi” (2022).

Up third is HBO’s popular Game of Thrones prequel series “House of the Dragon,” at a budget of $20 million per episode. The show was released this year on August 21 and is already teed up for a second season after a smash hit premiere across streaming on HBO Max and linear TV. The show revolves around House Targaryen and is set about 200 years before the events of the inaugural “Game of Thrones” series, based on writings of George R. R. Martin.

The original “Game of Thrones” HBO series also made the list, with Season 8 of the series (2019) in a tie for the fourth most expensive TV shows at a budget of $15 million per episode. Also at number four were “The Book of Boba Fett” (2022), “The Mandalorian” (2019-), “The Witcher” (2019-), and “Watchmen” (2019).

Rounding out the top five is Netflix’s series “The Crown” (2016-), with a budget of $13 million per episode.

VPN Overview noted in its findings the large difference in budget for “The Rings of Power” and others –$35 million between first and second most expensive show per episode.

“This might depend on the expectations both producers and the public have for the show, as it has a legacy to uphold, since the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies are among the most loved in the world. It also shows that as the battle for subscribers continues between the major streaming platforms, Amazon is happy to spend big money to compete with its rivals,” wrote the company.