R2's Day:Series TV is like making sausages

Republibot 2.0

We've all heard the phrase that ______________ is like making sausages- they taste good. but no one wants to see how they are made.

Television is a lot like that.  I worked in TV for several years and was a production executive at a (now defunct) home shopping channel.  The glamour of TV extends about one inch beyond what you are able to see on the screen.   The sets are held together with a magical substance called 'gaffer tape', it's hot, lamps blow out suddenly with a noise that has all the Veterans on your staff hitting the deck and rolling for cover... there's tape on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling....It's all illusion, except the money... which is only half illusion.

I was asked how some shows make any money a week or two ago, so....

Let's take Marvel's Agents of Shield for example (because as far as these things go, this is fairly low hanging fruit).


The Pilot episode was $12 M.  REALLY expensive... so let's spread the cost out over the season and estimate an approximate average cost per episode of $4 M.  Ads for AoS are approximately $212k per 30 second spot.  There's space for 17 minutes of ads, but lets only use 8.5 minutes (you lose about half to local spots and network promos).  That gives us $1.8 M in ad revenue per episode.  Each episode is shown 2x in primetime, so you have $3.6 M of your $4 M right there.   Netflix buys VOD rights for a pretty good chunk of change.(They are paying $1.75 M per episode of Gotham, they pay $900,000 for The New Girl, per episode).  AoS is probably pretty messy in this regard (what, with the Marvel/Disney orignal series orders, I imagine AoS was part of the deal...) so, let's just assume that they are paying $500,000 per episode of AoS.  Let's also assume that Apple (iTunes) and HuluPlus are both paying about the same amount.  That's another $1.5 M per episode.

We've now broken even.

AoS is licensed in 155 countries.  The exact amount (or heck, I'd settle for an average...) is really hard to find.  Let's be really conservative (it is still Republibot, you know...) and say that the licensing runs around $20,000 per episode.  I probably lowballed that figure by an order of magnitude, but foreign sales was never my field.   That's $3.1 M, and tada, we are now profitable.

And that doesn't even count Blu-Ray/DVD sales.... which, as I look, aren't happening yet.  It's being released on September 9th.  Let's assume that it moves half a million copies at $30.  Half of that goes to Wal Mart or Amazon, plus packaging, shipping... let's say the studio gets $8 per set.  That's roughly another $200,000 per episode.



If you look at my figures, where I'm inaccurate or unsure, I lowball.... my conservative estimate is that the revenue for each episode of Agents of Shield is about $8.4 Million per episode, about half of which is profit.

And we haven't even talked about toys/posters and other licensing...