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$15m episodes, $500k paychecks and $2.3b publicity: Game of Thrones in numbers

Lucy Dean
Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) all stare in the blockbuster series Game of Thrones. Images: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) all stare in the blockbuster series Game of Thrones. Images: Warner Bros. Television Distribution

When it comes to life in Westeros, not many people get to have a happy ending.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth for HBO.

The ratings bonanza has earned HBO 47 Emmy Awards and cemented HBO as the home of premium, cinematic television.

However, this didn’t come at a price.

US$15 million: The estimated price of each episode in the final season of Game of Thrones, according to Variety.

That’s a lot of money, but they’re also very long episodes, with the last four all expected to run for 80 minutes.

US$10 million: The cost of an episode from season six onwards - a budget increase from earlier seasons’ US$6 million episode budgets.

US$8 million: The budget for what was previously Thrones’ most expensive episode, Blackwater.

This episode featured a full-sized replica of a 14th century battleship, and apparently those don’t come cheap.

Pushing from the previous US$6 million episode budget, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss reflected on the challenges in securing the additional US$2 million.

“We had one really intense conference call with the HBO brass. It was awkward,” Benioff told GQ.

“I think we asked for $2.5 million. We got $2 million-something,” Weiss said. “That’s a lot of money in TV.”

US$500,000: Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Lena Headey’s (Cersei Lannister) reported salary per episode each in the final season.

Fellow stars, Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) reportedly each pocketed a relatively measly US$175,000, but as Turner told Harper’s Bazaar, this might not be a case of an unfair gender pay gap.

“Kit got more money than me, but he had a bigger storyline,” Turner said. “And for the last series, he had something crazy like 70 night shoots, and I didn’t have that many. I was like, 'You know what... you keep that money.'"

US$2.3 billion: The estimated value of the free press Game of Thrones awarded Starbucks after that infamous craft service mistake.

Does Daenerys really prefer almond milk over dairy? We’ll likely never know, but according to the CEO of marketing company Hollywood Branded, Stacey Jones, the exposure value of that Game of Thrones slip-up could be as high as US$2.3 billion for Starbucks - even though the cup wasn’t even from a Starbucks branch.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime collision of opportunity for Starbucks,” she told CNBC. “But really, this is just the tip of the iceberg, because what isn’t being monitored or estimated is the word of mouth and social media on top of this.”

US$7,000: The cost of Daenerys’ wig.

It’s fair to say the dragon queen has seen a massive character arc - with last night’s penultimate episode adding a resounding exclamation mark.

And her wig has travelled with her, growing more intricate with every season and every city she claimed. The show also had Cersei, Melisandre and Margaery Tyrell wearing intricate wigs.

According to Kevin Alexander, the show’s hair designer, by the end of season two, there were already 20-30 wigs in use on the show, and they could cost up to $7,000 each.

US$108 million: The economic boost Northern Ireland enjoys.

Northern Ireland Screen, an agency charged with boosting the region’s economic development, reportedly gives Game of Thrones US$15.3 million each season to film there.

In exchange, an economic boost of US$108 million. Nearly 13,000 (12,986) extras were also employed in North Ireland.

US$800,000: The cost for just 10 minutes of CGI.

Maybe this explains why The Long Night was so dark.

According to Money Inc, just 10 minutes of computer generated images can come in at US$800,000.

4,000: Gallons of fake blood used over the entire show.

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