At $15 million per installment, the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was the most expensive TV season in history on a per-episode basis. That was until Apple started making its own TV shows.
Apple’s content budget for its upcoming streaming service, Apple+, is as much as $6 billion, according to the Financial Times (it was previously believed to be closer to $1 billion). A good chunk of that will help pay for The Morning Show, a series about the behind-the-scenes drama at an American morning talk show. The Financial Times is reporting that each episode of the Apple series will cost even more than the $15 million it required to make an episode of the final season of HBO’s Thrones.
The Morning Show stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell, all of whom are A-list actors who command high salaries. Unlike Game of Thrones, which forced HBO to spend record figures on elaborate special effects and massive set pieces, The Morning Show costs so much because of the people involved in it. The Hollywood Reporter divulged last year that the tech giant is paying “upward of $1.25 million per episode to stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.” By contrast, even the biggest stars on Game of Thrones were making only about $500,000 per episode, while most others made closer to $100,000 or less.
Silicon Valley’s commitment to winning over talent for its content plays is part of the reason why television production costs are rising across the industry, especially as more deep-pocketed companies like Apple enter the streaming wars. And The Morning Show isn’t Apple’s only big investment: The Financial Times notes that the sci-fi drama See (starring Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones fame) has a comparable budget. There are more than a dozen other shows rumored to be in the works—many of them also boasting big-name stars and directors—but Apple has said it will only be launching five this fall.
The Morning Show is unlikely to become the global phenomenon that Thrones was, but given its star-studded cast, it’s still a major draw for potential subscribers to the rumored $10-per-month Apple TV+ service. With Apple’s $250 billion annual revenues and $1 trillion market capitalization, those subscribers might not have to wait long for an even more expensive show to debut on the service.