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House of the Dragon is already turning out to be a massive gamble for HBO. The Game of Thrones prequel hasn’t even premiered yet. But the disappointing end to the original series has seemingly crushed fan interest in the fantasy world created by author George R. R. Martin. And the budget of each episode will be unsustainable if the series isn’t a hit. 

What is the insane amount that HBO is spending to produce just one episode of House of the Dragon? We promise fans will not believe it.

House of the Dragon stars Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in an image from season 1
Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in ‘House of the Dragon’ | Ollie Upton/HBO

Three years after Game of Thrones came to a controversial end, HBO is introducing its successor — House of the Dragon. After numerous prequels and spinoffs were put into development, House of the Dragon emerged as the first to make it to air. 

The premium cabler has poured millions of dollars into the project — sparing no expense — in an attempt to make this prequel successful.

The stakes are high for House of the Dragon and HBO. If the series proves to be a ratings hit, it will likely lead to many more Westeros-based shows. But if it’s a flop, all of those Game of Thrones-related projects could ultimately be shelved.

“The trick here is, you don’t want to just remake the original show. You want to make a show that feels related and honors the original, but also feels like its own,” Casey Bloys, HBO chief content officer, explained to the New York Times. “It is a very important franchise to us.”

HBO spent an insane amount of money to produce each episode

The first season of House of the Dragon will feature 10 episodes. And according to Variety, each one of those episodes cost nearly $20 million to produce. For some context, an entire season of Game of Thrones cost around $100 million to make. 

Season 1 averaged out to approximately $6 million per episode. But by the end of the series, the price tag of a single episode had increased to about $15 million.

Of course, there’s been some inflation in the past decade, which has caused a spike in production and labor costs. But, HBO was able to keep the cost of each episode under $20 million due to their experience with producing high-quality series as efficiently as possible.

Between Game of Thrones, Westworld, and His Dark Materials, the network knows how to produce good TV on a budget. Even when there are a ton of CGI dragons flying around.

We should also point out that $20 million per episode is actually quite cheap compared to what Amazon dished out for their new Lord of the Rings TV series The Rings of Power. That eight-episode first season cost an eye-popping $465 million, or more than $58 million per episode.

‘House of the Dragon’ isn’t the only TV show with a huge budget

Budgets are absolutely soaring in the world of TV production, and not just for epic fantasy series. Netflix shelled out $30 million per episode to make Season 4 of Stranger Things.

That kind of spending just isn’t possible for HBO and its new parent company Discovery. They have a crushing $53 billion debt load, and they are actively looking for ways to cut costs. But Bloys remains confident that House of the Dragon will be successful, and hopefully help turn Martin’s GoT universe on HBO into something resembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 


‘House of the Dragon’: The 10 Most Powerful Dragons in the ‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel

Of course, they aren’t expecting this prequel to beat the original series right out of the gate. Especially considering Game of Thrones is the most-watched HBO show of all time.

“There’s no world in which we expect this to pick up where the original left off,” Bloys said. “I think the show will do really well. But it will have to do the work on its own to bring people in and to sustain the viewership.”

House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, August 21 on HBO.