The budget hike means that Drogon can finally get a better trailer.
"The show easily costs north of $10 million per episode at this point, not that you'll hear HBO complain."This budget hike makes Game of Thrones the most expensive recurring TV show in HBO's history, and possibly in the history of television as a whole. The previous record holder was Rome, which clocked in at $100 million for its first season in 2005. That was for more episodes (twelve to GoT's ten), so the per-episode budget of Thrones is definitely higher. However, adjusting for inflation brings the two shows to near-parity. Thrones edges it because, including Season 6, it still has three seasons to run and may see yet further budget hikes, whilst Rome had a significant budget cut for its second season. Rome was also co-funded (to the tune of 15% of the budget) by the BBC, so HBO has certainly put a lot more of its own money into Thrones.
This budget is extraordinary by the standards of television. Most network TV shows have budgets in the region of $2-$3 million per episode. Even The Walking Dead's budget is under $4 million an episode, whilst SyFy's recent The Expanse went just over $4 million. The most expensive recent recurring drama series is Lost, which cost around $5 million per episode by its final episode in 2010, the result of filming in Hawaii, a relatively expensive location.
Although the budget for Thrones is big, it's still a fair bit behind HBO's WWII event mini-series. Band of Brothers cost $125 million (approximately $167 million in today's money) in 2002 and The Pacific cost over $200 million in 2010 (approx. $220 million today). It'll be interesting to see if their upcoming third series in this vein, The Mighty Eighth, will continue this upwards trend.
The budget hike means that, remarkably, Thrones's budget is getting on for double what it was when it started. In 2011 the show had a budget of $6 million per episode. There was a 15% budget hike for Season 2, taking it to just under $7 million. Further budget hikes mean that by Season 4 the show was estimated to be costing $7.5-$8 million per episode. Season 5 saw HBO remove any hard-and-fast budgetary restrictions, apparently claiming that as long as it was needed for the show, the producers could have it.
This remarkable largess is down to the show's sheer profitability. HBO pre-sold the series to dozens of international broadcasters back in 2010/11, putting them almost in profit on the series before it even aired a minute of footage. The massive worldwide ratings since then have made the show far more profitable and this is even before the colossal DVD and Blu-Ray sales are taken into account, not to mention video on demand. Thrones was also the lynchpin in no less than two deals between HBO and the UK's Sky TV network, with each deal individually reported to be worth over $400 million.
With the casting of some (relatively) big names and the filming of the largest battle sequence ever attempted for television, it looks like almost all of that money will be put on screen in the upcoming sixth season, which debuts on 24 April.