Game of Thrones Season 8 budget revealed!

2x09 Blackwater Tyrion Wildfire Explosion

As you may have been able to tell from the show’s increasingly impressive set pieces, HBO has been pumping more and more money into Game of Thrones, year after year. According to a new report, this upward trend continues: the budget per episode for season eight is enormous — explosively so, breaking the show’s own record.

In a new feature about skyrocketing TV budgets (with a really cool cover, by the way), Variety casually revealed that each season eight episode will cost HBO $15 million.

For the sake of comparison, season six was marked at $10 million per episode, at least. The seventh may have cost around $100 million too, but spread among fewer episodes. Quaintly, the first set piece battle episode ever in Game of Thrones, season two’s “Blackwater”, which was considered to be incredibly expensive for the day, was reported to require $8 million — exactly the same amount as the average season five episode.

wildfire

If this new figure is accurate, the budget has certainly increased for the average episode, and that bodes well for the kind of amazing things we’ll see in the final year of Thrones. There are two possibilities I can see here, and personally I’m left satisfied either way: either more money is pumped into each minute of Thrones and Ghost isn’t sacrificed to the altar of budget compromise anymore; or the episodes will be considerably longer, as sound designer Paula Fairfield claimed could be the case at the first Con of Thrones.

The math for this latter option works out, too: as the average season six episode cost $10 million and ran for almost an hour, $15 million for season eight episodes would come close to Fairfield’s 90 minutes run time estimate. As of yet, the longest Game of Thrones episode was the season seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”, at almost 80 minutes.

Fleet Euron 7x07 (3)

Who knows, maybe we’re getting a bit of both options: some more spectacle than in season seven, and episodes that are at least a tad longer as well. The best of both worlds!

What do you guys think this budget increase means for the show’s final six episodes? Would you rather have more expensive one hour-long episodes or feature-length ones at the same production level as season six and seven? Or perhaps a happy medium?

46 responses

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    1. I think it’s the normal budget spending for a succesful TV series. The main cost driver will be not the CGI effects but the loan costs. I think Kit Harrington etc. will earn 10times more per episode than he did in season 1 when he was a “nobody” 😉
      Same for the rest of the cast… (for example from other succesful series: Hugh Laurie earned 400.000$ per episode in 2010, Charlie Sheen more than 1,25Mio/episode 😉 …)

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    2. mau:
      But that means that the budget for the whole season is $90 million. S6 had $100 million.

      I included a line about that discrepancy but, in the end, decided to scrap it. These figures are all approximations; maybe season six never reached $100 million to begin with, or maybe each season eight episode will cost $16 or $17 million, not $15 million. Who knows. In the grand scheme of things, and considering we don’t actually know the budgets in any real detail, the discrepancy is small enough that I decided to obviate it.

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    3. It would be wonderful if Ghost and Nymeria had a bigger presence and impact than previous seasons but i don’t think that would be where they’ll use the money…

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    4. GoT episodes produced for $10 million – $15 million apiece are consistently better than Hollywood “blockbuster” movies costing ten times as much. I wonder why that is?
      Why would a TV show have seamless, life-like CGI, but a big budget film has CGI that looks fake and cartoonish?

      [Darn…. Keyboard freezing. To be cont./uncorrected]

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    5. >Would you rather have more expensive one hour-long episodes or feature-length ones at the same production level as season six and seven? Or perhaps a happy medium?

      Whatever works for the story best. You need to do cutoff points at the correct moments. If that means a short episode (Spoils of War) or a long one, what I want a happy medium in is having the story told at a generally brisk, energetic pace with some slower moments.

      e: Season 6-7 pacing was perfect for me. Seasons 2 and 5 were too slow.

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    6. I’d go for the happy medium, but I suspect that very concept varies widely by viewer. To me, it would mean longer episodes with slightly less spectacle (by comparison, time-wise) than we saw in S7, which left me with whiplash. And missing Ghost. And complaining about writing more holey than Swiss cheese.

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    7. Ryan,

      the top 5 would earn about $ 15 Million for Season 8. the production values would increase dramatically, Increase Drogon screen time, possible dragon vs dragon, more wights action, stunts etc.

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    8. Territory where HBO should think about an IMAX follow up, which I was hoping would happen for season 6 and 7.

      I hope 15 mil can buy a direwolf or two!!

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    9. Ryan,

      Yes, it does include salaries. The show undeniably has more money being put into production (that’s evident just by comparing the first season with the seventh), of course.

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    10. I will be GREATLY disappointed if S8 does not actually have feature length episodes, meaning 90 minutes and not just “episodes that are at least a tad longer.” I really don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t get proper feature length episodes since it’s dialogue and moments between characters that viewers want in those extra 30 minutes not expensive CGI. There is lots and lots of potential material, a lot of history, between all those characters at and heading to Winterfell.

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    11. Seems to me like they got $100 Million for the past few years. The amount per episode increased as the number declined. So $16.6 very well may be the actual number. This obviously bodes well for Ghost.

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    12. lucy:
      I really don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t get proper feature length episodes since it’s dialogue and moments between characters that viewers want in those extra 30 minutes not expensive CGI.

      Preach it, sister! It’s the character-development moments and the plot-clarifying moments that tend to get scrapped to make room for more action scenes.

      Case in point: my least favorite of the Potter movies, Goblet of Fire. Director thought it would be cool for the Hungarian horntail to break loose and chase Harry around the castle turrets for 10 minutes, and to have the hedges come alive in the maze. Result: couple of small, much-less-costly scenes absolutely crucial to audience understanding roles of Barty Crouch Sr. & Jr. entirely left out (Barty Jr. swapped with his mother and smuggled out of Azkaban; Wormtail arrives on Barty Sr.’s doorstep with Baby Voldy and puts Barty Sr. under Imperius curse).

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    13. Mo Money Mo problems.

      Obviously the Final season will need a cache of cash for each episode as each should be action-packed.

      Only 6 episodes left and a whole lot of end-game story line to get to and through.

      I was thinking about this as I sat in Nashville traffic this morning and it is really radly random…

      What if one of our heroes decided to fall on a dragonglass sword to re-animate as a ‘good day king’ type cyborg?

      Say ol Aegon does, slides a dragonglass dagger into his chest to become immune to the wights and white walkers and then runs off to open a can of whup-ass on the walking dead?

      Anyway, I digress, traffic sucks and will make your mind wander.

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    14. It feels impossible to choose: longer episodes with time for superb acting or extraordinarily awesome battle scenes, dragon showdowns, Ghost and maybe another Nymeria appearance!? 😉 …so I would be happy to settle with the best of both worlds with 70-80 minutes with our favorite characters (maybe one giant clocking in at 100 minutes) and then one hell of a final cgi-performance!

      Most importantly, I hope they take their time to end it all with close to perfection, as I have have used the last weeks adjusting for the loooong winter…it doesn’t feel quite as cold anymore. 2018 or 2019 no longer matters, as long as it’s going to be sooo worth the wait 🙂

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    15. lucy,
      Because it’s possible to have too much dialogue and character moments. Case in point: AFFC/ADWD. They never got anywhere because they were too slow.

      This is the final season. It had better have perfect pacing. And yes, this includes the concept of ‘not too slow’.

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    16. Thank you for sharing this, Luka. And for linking to that stunning cover. Several have mentioned salaries. That figure per episode will be reduced by main character deaths in previous S8 episodes…alas. No wonder so many cast members this year conjectured that S8 would be “carnage.” One hopes that the scripts and execution will hit a happy medium, but IMO what would be truly satisfying is for the interpersonal moments, logical character developments, and sparkling dialogue to balance out the inevitably brilliant CGI and visual bombast of the larger moments. After nearly 20 years knowing these characters, I still care much more about them than production values.

      Ten Bears:

      [Darn…. Keyboard freezing. To be cont./uncorrected]

      Winter is Here!! 🙂

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    17. With all the Hype that will be happening for the final episodes of Game of Thrones …

      HBO could debut epic season 8 episodes 5 or 6 in big screen movie theaters and HBO could make a fortune.

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    18. Stark Raven’ Rad:
      That figure per episode will be reduced by main character deaths in previous S8 episodes…alas.

      I don’t believe so, actually. The cast seem to be paid on a per season basis, not based on how many episodes they actually appear in. “Per episode” is just the figure used to set a seasonal salary rate.

      Note, for instance, that Alexander Siddig was contracted for four episodes of Season 6 and still got paid for all four despite the show only using him in one episode. The regulars would surely not have less generous terms than a guest star.

      So a regular who dies in 801 will probably still be collecting for 802-806.

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    19. Can’t wait to see what that money brings to the screen. I’m sure the effects will be incredible! Hopefully we see Ghost again… with that money of course we will! 😀

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    20. Game of Thrones can definitely end in six episodes. HOWEVER, I do feel as though the episodes need to be slightly longer in order to service the characters and political drama as much as possible. I want this season to retain its low fantasy elements even if the high fantasy aspects are the reason we “ooooo and awe”.

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    21. I’ve always valued the character development and dialogue more than the action, so I’d be very happy if they kept the same amount of action in S8, and filled the longer run times with the latter.

      Boojam: I hope 15 mil can buy a direwolf or two!!

      Why not more than two? Surely there had to be some wight-direwolves up north that Ghost and Nymeria could fight with 😀

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    22. Tar Kidho:
      I’ve always valued the character development and dialogue more than the action, so I’d be very happy if they kept the same amount of action in S8, and filled the longer run times with the latter.

      Why not more than two? Surely there had to be some wight-direwolves up north that Ghost and Nymeria could fight with 😀

      Sounds like the fan version of DnD wanting a wight polar bear.

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    23. Patrick,

      Seriously, they have to include Ghost in the final season. there has got to be a moment when Jon comes back to WF with Dany and he introduces her to Ghost.

      Or hell, at least Ghost is happy to see Jon after he has been gone so long.

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    24. Edward:
      Game of Thrones can definitely end in six episodes. HOWEVER, I do feel as though the episodes need to be slightly longer in order to service the characters and political drama as much as possible. I want this season to retain its low fantasy elements even if the high fantasy aspects are the reason we “ooooo and awe”.

      S1 E1 foreshadowed that high fantasy was ultimately going to be where the show headed. That said, unless the Night King wins, the show will have to resolve things by way of low fantasy. So youll probably get both. But its not because of “oohing and aweing.” Its actually a big part of the story itself.

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    25. In a new feature about skyrocketing TV budgets (with a really cool cover, by the way), Variety

      Luka, you’re right, that is a really cool cover!

      I prefer longer episodes, but I’m just hoping the most important story lines/arcs will be wrapped up properly.

      Ten Bears: GoT episodes produced for $10 million – $15 million apiece are consistently better than Hollywood “blockbuster” movies costing ten times as much.

      I think Hollywood studios are in really big trouble. Together, S6’s “BOTB” and “TWOW” pretty much made a summer blockbuster. Even Marvel can’t compare to those episodes.

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    26. hmmm, i don t know, i think should be at least 120 milions in the final season, WHY? simple, because we expecting to get episodes AT LEAST with 70 minutes long and as is the final season with lot of action happening, we cant expect a battle 6x better than BOB or field of fire with 90 miliions, and i dont know you but im expecting the final battle to be way better than the battles that we had (and were fantastic), its the final battle, with dragons, lot of armys, giants,animals, etc.

      and one more thing, i dont about you guys, again haha, but im expecting more than one battle, i dont think we will have a battle in the final episode since the directors are DD, even that they prove in 2 swords that they nailed it with action scene.

      I will be VERY disapointed if the GREAT threat for westeros since the 1 episode, since the 1 chapter, the WW, the night king cant even advance ONE region (north) and advance at least until the trident or kings landing, and thats why i expect 2 battles, 1 battle for TRY to keep WF and lost it, and the final battle to happens in KL or the trident, at least in the books will be this way.

      but to be honest i want it but i think in the show the final battle will be in the north ans thats it, the books are way better but the show is epic as well and i still have a hope for this.

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    27. The Night King and white walkers are more evil and creepy in Hardhome compared the Beyond the Wall… I wonder which episode cost more? no need to spend millions of dollars on epic battles.

      I like the way the Highgarden massacre was done in the Queens Mercy… it reminds me of how well the battles in season 2 were done!

      Most important is the story, the pacing to story, the cinematography and then the over rated too expensive cgi battles.

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    28. mau:
      But that means that the budget for the whole season is $90 million. S6 had $100 million.

      Well, yea, but that would be for 6 episodes, as opposed to 10 in season 6.

      D&D have consistently said for years that the production requirements for the last Season of Thrones would be unprecedented in television history, even by the show’s own previous standard; given that D&D have known the show’s ending for years now, I take them at their word.

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    29. firstone,

      I certainly don’t want battles to simply be seeing them charging and then cutting away to the aftermath. The reality is in order to show these battles in a believable way it takes a massive production team, a large number of extras and a lot of time especially in post-production. Add in wights and white walkers and dragons and you have even more production costs. All the drama and political intrigue is great and all but in order to show the battles which is where we are at this point in the story a lot of money has to be spent to show them effectively. That’s just the way it is.

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    30. There are going to be a lot of disappointed people when it turns out most of the episodes are normalish in length (55-60 minutes)

      One random sound designer says at Con of Thrones that episodes might be feature length and now everyone is assuming 70+ minutes for all 6

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    31. Aguero,
      There really need to be three battles and at least one… skirmish, let’s call it:
      – one with the WW, lost (my guess is Winterfell)
      – one with the Golden Company / Cersei’s forces (they wouldn’t be bringing them on otherwise)
      – the last one
      – and the skirmish is something in the Yara/Theon story.

      Add to that some individual fights (the C-Bowl, hopefully, and maybe Dany and Jon will need to fly to the Lands of Always Winter for some reason, they should really show it before the end). That’s how much good action there need to be funds for.

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    32. JonSnowsForeskin: There are going to be a lot of disappointed people when it turns out most of the episodes are normalish in length (55-60 minutes)

      The average episode ran for 55 minutes for the first six years of the show, with any differences between seasons amounting to mere seconds. Suddenly, in season seven, with three fewer episodes to produce, the average jumped 7 whole minutes, to 62. Season eight will have another fewer episode, leaving space for a few more minutes; and THE lead sound designer of Game of Thrones (not “a random sound designer”) hinted at feature-length episodes. Granted, I’m not expecting the new average to be 90 minutes. That’s fantasy. But I believe we may get another bump like last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the average run time in the last season is somewhere between 65 and 75.

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    33. If the episodes end up shorter than feature length next season and key moments and developments feel rushed as they did this season, yeah, I think fans are going to be mad.

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    34. I hope that the first 4 will be around 70 minutes. Episode 5 90 minutes and the last one 120 minutes. Come to a average of 82 minutes. The rest of the budget should go toward making the story realistic (white walkers, battles, dire wolves, dragons).

      I think 490/500 minutes is long enough to close the story even with many dialogues. I think episode 1 will start with the set up and end with a small battle (theon). Episode 2 or 3 will be a battle episode where one castle will be lost. Episode 4 will be a transition episode with lot of personal stuff happening (a la 3×05/4×07/7×05) episode 6 will be a battle with the white walkers or cercei and the other will be at the beginning of episode 6 end the show will end with personal stuff.

      Probably I’m wrong and they have a much better plan.

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