Here's How Much Apple, Netflix, Amazon & More Spend on Programming

Dan Clarendon

If Cersei Lannister were a TV executive, she’d decree that in the Game of Remotes, you spend billions or you die.

The streaming wars are heating up with Disney and Apple entering the fray, and on the premium cable side, HBO is busily fortifying its forces. All these companies — plus Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon — are paying 9-, 10- or even 11- digit sums per year to arm themselves with the biggest stars, the best showrunners, the largest fanbase, and the most Emmys.

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Here’s how much the big players are spending annually…

CBS All Access: Unknown

No one seems to know how much CBS is spending on its All Access streaming platform — and on buzzy shows such as Star Trek Discovery and the Twilight Zone reboot — but CBS Interactive President Marc DeBevoise says that All Access’s budget is close to those of competitors. “It’s not exactly as much, but we’re in the top tier of content spenders of all these companies,” he told The Wrap in October. “Our content spending is not something to laugh at.”

Jordan Peele as The Narrator of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE. (Robert Falconer/CBS)

Disney+: $500 million

RBC Capital Market estimates that Disney will spend $23.8 billion on content in 2019, including $500 million for its forthcoming streaming platform, which is scheduled to launch later this year. Some of those millions are going to new Star Wars and Marvel shows, including The Mandalorian, a Rogue One prequel series with Diego Luna, a Scarlet Witch series with Elizabeth Olsen, and a Loki series with Tom Hiddleston.

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Apple TV+: $2 billion

With high profile projects tapping the talents of Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, and more bold-faced names, Apple’s just-unveiled streaming platform kicked off with a $1 billion budget that has since expanded to $2 billion, as BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield estimated.

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HBO: $2.5 billion

At last report — back in 2017 — HBO was spending $2.5 billion on original programming. (Hey, those White Walker invasions don’t come cheap.) But that number is expected to rise even higher now that HBO has AT&T as a parent company. “We want to increase our investment in premium content,” WarnerMedia head John Stankey told investors in July.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones on HBO (HBO)

Hulu: $2.5 billion

Hulu, which spent $2.5 billion in 2017 and likely spent more in 2018, was on track to lost $1.5 billion for 2018 by July. (Netflix is also operating at a loss, as The Wrap pointed out at the time, but has far more subscribers.) On the plus side, Hulu has serious Emmy bona fides thanks to The Handmaid’s Tale and might have benefitted from Disney recent doubling of its investment as part of the Disney-Fox deal.

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Amazon: $5 billion

JP Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth predicted in February 2018 that Amazon would invest around $5 billion in Amazon Prime programming that year as the home of watercooler faves like Jack Ryan and Homecoming and critical darlings like Transparent and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Plus, its forthcoming Lord of the Rings series, with a reported budget of $1 billion, is already being hailed as “the most expensive television show ever made.”

Julia Roberts in Homecoming (Amazon)

Netflix: $12 billion

By Quartz’s estimate, Netflix added nearly 1,500 hours of original programming in 2018 — with more than 850 titles streaming exclusively on its popular streaming service — and all that content came at a whopping price tag of $12 million — $3 billion more than its 2017 budget and $3 billion less than its projected 2019 budget, according to Variety.