The penultimate season of “Game of Thrones” — a popular HBO show based on George R. R. Martin’s book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire” — is well underway. The show premiered on HBO in 2011. By 2014, it had surpassed “The Sopranos” as the most popular HBO series when it reached 20 million viewers. Last year, in its sixth season, the show had a record-breaking 25.7 million viewers per episode across all platforms if you account for delayed viewers, according to Variety.
The seventh season premiere broke two more records when 16.1 million total viewers tuned in at the time of the broadcast and sent 2.4 million tweets while watching the show. That’s a 50 percent increase from last year’s premiere viewership.
Those viewership numbers don't come cheap. Thanks to high production values and expensive talent, it takes a whole lot of money to create a season of “Game of Thrones.”
Let's do the numbers on the number one show in the world:
Not only is the show popular — it is also expensive
Back in its earlier seasons, an average “Game of Thrones” episode cost about $6 million to make. That’s compared to the $2 million per episode that it takes to produce most cable shows. In its second season, “Game of Thrones” raised eyebrows when an episode called Blackwater cost $8 million, according to Business Insider.
Those battle scenes don’t come cheap
Bigger budgets seemed to be the norm by the beginning of the last seasons. The sixth season had a budget of $100 million for 10 episodes, breaking down to about $10 million per episode. The most expensive episode of that season, “Bastards,” was the one with the largest battle scene yet. According to an Entertainment Weekly report, it took 600 crew members, 500 extras, 160 tons of gravel, 70 horses, 25 stunt performers, 4 camera crews and 25 days of shooting to make.
Nor do the nude scenes
According to a 2014 TMZ report, Cersei’s walk of shame (or walk of atonement) cost $50,000 a day for four days. In an effort to keep the scene under wraps the producers hired more than 200 security guards, banned cell phones and threatened potential leakers with a $250,000 lawsuit.
A paycheck worthy of the Queen of Dragons
One of the main expenses for the show is its talent. Actors Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau all signed a particularly advantageous contract for the last two seasons of the show. In addition to getting their $1.1 million salary per episode, they will also collect a percentage of syndication payments paid whenever the show is aired in 170 countries, according to Express.
It’s all about location, location, location
The one area where the show has gotten a bit of a discount is on its filming locations. According to a recent Fortune article: “Northern Ireland Screen agency has invested $18.28 million so far in the show. The result, the agency says, is that ‘Game of Thrones’ has brought more than $224 million to the area in the form of filming expenses, tourism, and more.”
Iceland and Croatia have also benefited by being selected as filming locations for the show.
In Iceland, as many as 250 crew members, actors and extras work on the show, according to Pegasus, a production company contracted by HBO in that country. About 500 rental cars and 3,000 hotel rooms were used during filming in 2011 and 2012, the company told CNBC.
“Game of Thrones”-inspired booze
It’s not just tourism that has seen a boost from the show. Back in 2013, HBO partnered with Ommegang Brewery to release a “Game of Thrones”-inspired beer called Iron Throne Blonde Ale. The 14,000 cases that were produced sold out right away. Since then, the partnership has led to other beers including:
- Take the Black, a stout
- Fire and Blood, a red ale
- Three-Eyed Raven, a dark saison
- Seven Kingdoms, a hoppy wheat ale
- Valar Morghulis and Valar Dohaeris, a dubbel and tripel ale
This season, fans can buy Bend the Knee Golden Ale and Winter is Here beer. Also, Fire and Blood will be re-released this fall, according to the brewery.
… and other paraphernalia
Recently, an avid fan of the show spent $27,000 on a cake featuring the character Tyrion Lannister sitting on the Iron Throne. According to the bakery that made the cake, it weighed 70 pounds.
It’s not just food and booze, either. After fans of the show expressed interest in buying jewelry worn by Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, the show’s three jewelry designers started their own online shop, according to Time magazine. Their pieces cost anywhere from $100 to a couple of thousand dollars.
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