How Much Does It Cost to Produce a TV Show?

The minimum cost of producing a TV show would be half a million. The high end would be around several million dollars.

The following is a very basic guideline. There are actually numerous items that can increase expenses.

Average Costs Per Episode

If you take the cost of all the networks and average them, the cost would be around $1 million to $1.5 million for every episode.

On free TV, there are 22 to 26 episodes per season. On cable, there are usually 13 per season.

This doesn’t always mean that cable shows are less expensive. It depends on the production quality and if the show becomes a hit.

The cost of producing a TV show’s pilot episode is about $500,000. This is for a typical drama series. For science fiction/fantasy, the expenses will be a little higher due to the makeup, clothing and special effects.

However, the cost will go up if the show becomes popular. ER, for example, cost over $12 million per episode. Other shows that become popular like the Sopranos and the X Files, also cost millions per airing.

Actor Fees

This also varies as much as the episode cost. Assume that the actor is unknown and will star in a new drama series. For the pilot episode, he/she may fetch $50,000 at least. This goes to explain why the cost of producing a TV show is high.

If the program becomes a hit, the actor will want to renegotiate for a higher fee. Stars of high-rating TV shows can fetch anywhere from $800,000 to a million dollars per episode.

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Not all actors receive this kind of money. For those in the background scenes, it’s about $130 per day. Those with one dialogue get around $800 for every day of work.

Those who get a three-day contract are paid $2,000. For those who perform every week, it is $3,000 to $5,000. A stunt coordinator makes approximately $3,000 weekly.

Other Expenses

But the costs of producing a TV show do not end with actor fees of course. There are the writers, director, and other personnel.

Other expenditures include food, transportation, building a set, and lodging. A lot of shows also have flight insurance. Shooting on location, special effects, and marketing have to be considered too.

Not to be discounted is marketing. A show has to be promoted to get noticed. The nature of the program also affects the cost.

Reality programs are said to be less expensive. Independent outfits have substantially lower costs too.

Generating Revenues

While the expenses are high, producers are able to recoup the costs through advertising and commercials.

In cable programs, the producers make money from subscription fees and product placement.

The cost of placing a commercial depends on its length and the show. Typically, a 30-second ad in a high-rating show will cost about $250,000 to $300,000.

The cost of producing a TV show is high. Given the competition in the entertainment industry, it might go up even more.