Apple is sparing no expense on its upcoming original video programming, with some of its eye-catching shows reportedly costing as much to produce for a season as a big-budget movie.
Citing unnamed sourced, The Wall Street Journal in a report published two days ago said that the Cupertino firm is spending to the tune of fifteen million bucks per a single episode of its upcoming sci-fi show, titled “See” and featuring “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa.
In the case of Apple’s ‘See,’ the cost has neared $15 million for each roughly 60-minute episode, according to a person familiar with the matter. That is more than the cost of a typical independent feature film.
The figure basically matches the per-episode budget for the final episodes of HBO’s popular “Game of Thrones,” proving Apple isn’t shying away from writing big checks for its top shows.
The competition is prompting newcomers to shell out between $8 million and $15 million per episode, significantly more than what the average TV show used to cost. For a single season, after including marketing and other expenses, the total can easily exceed $150 million—or roughly what it costs to put a new ‘Spider-Man’ movie in theaters nationwide.
But how come the studios are willing to burn that kind of money on TV shows?
With massive casts, exotic filming locations and copious special effects, budgets have ballooned to amounts once considered unfathomable for a TV show. One driving factor, executives say, is that high-profile TV shows are offered up next to theatrical films available to stream on the same service, so original programming can’t risk looking like B-material next to the movies.
Okay, but what’s up with the proliferation of sci-fi and fantasy content on streaming services?
Since every new major streaming service is eyeing the international market, they also need programming that will play in any language or culture. Fantasy shows, taking place in an imaginary world, are easier to sell to foreign audiences.
‘Big, expensive Marvel movies cross borders in a way parlor dramas do not,’ said Michael Lombardo, a veteran TV exec who was president of programming at HBO until 2016.
Aside from “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa—who plays a fearless warrior, leader and guardian, named Baba Voss—Apple has also signed up actress Alfre Woodard for the upcoming fantasy series. “See” is set centuries in the future after a virus has wiped out much of Earth’s population and left survivors blind. Apple previewed the series at its services-focused event, showing off a few promising scenes that set the tone for the whole thing, with Momoa’s character ready-set for battle alongside dozens of actors.
The sweeping vistas prominently featured in “See” were filmed in the fields and forests of British Columbia. Variety in a report from a year ago described the upcoming show as “an epic, world-building drama set in the future.”
Image: Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”