10 Most Expensive TV Show Pilots Ever

The Mandalorian, The Crown, Boardwalk Empire and Westworld all had super expensive debuts.

The Crown Pilot

Over the last decade we have witnessed something of a golden age of television. More and more acclaimed shows are being made in an increasingly competitive industry, with the likes of HBO, Netflix and now Disney+ battling it out in order to produce the best content.

As a result, television has become increasingly more lucrative and therefore more costly to make. It used to be the case that a show would start off relatively inexpensive and then more money would be thrown at if it became successful. A prime example of this would be Friends, which by its final season was costing NBC $10 million per episode to make, thanks largely to the wage demands of its famous cast.

But in a world where first impressions matter and networks and streaming platforms are always looking to one-up each other, more cash is being splashed on pilot episodes.

Sometimes, the risk pays off and we end up with Game of Thrones, but you are also just as likely to get a dud like Netflix’s Marco Polo.

These are the most expensive TV show pilots ever…

10. The Mandalorian - $12.5 Million

The Crown Pilot

It should come as no surprise to see The Mandalorian on this list. It was the very first original series to premiere on Disney+ and as a result, the House of Mouse were willing to bank a lot of money on it to make sure it was a success. $100 million on just eight episodes, to be precise.

Consequently, the opening episode, Chapter 1: The Mandalorian, cost approximately $12.5 million to produce. And looking back on it you can clearly see where the cash went. The show’s production values and visual effects are better than almost anything else you’ll find on the small screen. This is largely down to the creation of a humongous, brand new, 360-degree video wall - called 'The Volume' - that was used to create the series’ various locations and sets.

Throw in the cost of hiring a star-studded cast and crew, as well as the $2 million needed to create and operate the Baby Yoda puppet and you end up with a rather pricey pilot.

Ultimately though, it was money well spent. A triumph upon its release, The Mandalorian has been lauded by critics and fans alike, receiving numerous nominations at prestigious award shows and bringing balance back to the Star Wars community after the polarising Sequel trilogy.

Now, more series and several spin-off shows are in development. Moreover, its success led Disney to green-light TV spinoffs for their properties including the recently released The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which also had an astronomical budget.


22-year-old journalism graduate from Croydon. When I'm not moaning about or singing the praises of Doctor Who or a great film or two, I'm (unsuccessfully) looking for a job or setting up a podcast. Again usually unsuccessfully.