Stranger Things season 4 was reportedly more expensive to make than Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian combined.
According to The Wall Street Journal, whose report into Netflix's cost-cutting measures helps to reveal why the streaming giant is cancelling so many shows, the hit Netflix show's next instalment cost $30 million per episode. Given that the supernatural horror series' next season will consist of nine episodes, that means Netflix spent an eye watering $270 million on Stranger Things season 4 alone.
For context, the final season of Game of Thrones cost $15 million per episode, while The Mandalorian, the hit Star Wars show, set Disney and Lucasfilm back by a similar amount. Additionally, the recent slate of Marvel shows that have released exclusively on Disney Plus are believed to have cost $25 million per episode.
Netflix, then, is pulling out all the stops to ensure that Stranger Things 4 is the TV series' biggest entry yet. Based on what we've seen so far – namely, the three-minute long trailer and a few teasers – it certainly seems that way, too.
That said, Stranger Things season 4 won't come close to being the most exorbitant TV show to arrive in 2022. The first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which will launch on Prime Video in September, has reportedly cost an eye watering $462 million – a monumental outlay that's sure to make it the most expensive TV series of all-time.
Still, for a streaming company that's rumored to be reining in its spending, the revelation regarding Stranger Things 4's production costs isn't likely to sit well with those who have hit out at Netflix in recent times. The streaming giant's trialling of a paid password sharing feature, plus a downturn in its subscriber base and year-on-year growth, means that things aren't looking rosy for Netflix at the present moment.
After a near three-year hiatus from our screens, Stranger Things 4 Part 1 will exclusively launch on Netflix on Friday, May 27. Part 2, meanwhile, will arrive five weeks later on Friday, July 1. For more Stranger Things season 4 content, check out our official trailer breakdown.
Analysis: paying the price
Stranger Things season 4 may be the kind of big-budget show that Netflix needs right now. With the myriad issues surrounding the streamer, coupled with the likely unwelcome press it's received since its Q1 2022 earnings report, its executive team could do with a big win. Given Stranger Things' popularity, the show is poised to deliver on that front.
Even so, at $30 million per episode, Stranger Things 4's production costs are sure to raise eyebrows. Yes, the TV series' latest entry needs a budget to reflect the fact that it's the biggest instalment yet. But, given the financial problems that Netflix is suffering (and may continue to suffer) from, a new $300 million budget for Stranger Things season 4 may appear to be a tad excessive.
It's a cost that may rankle with the creative teams behind other Netflix projects. Per The Wall Street Journal's report, Netflix is looking to create "under-the-radar, relatively low-cost hits" to offset the financial outlay of its biggest shows and movies. Think The Witcher ($10 million per episode), The Crown ($13 million per episode), Red Notice ($200 million overall), and The Adam Project ($116 million overall), and Netflix isn't shy about backing up its biggest hitters and most notable stars.
So Netflix is positioning itself to produce films and TV series with smaller budgets in the hope of discovering the next Squid Game. From a financial position, that's a commendable stand to take. But, from a creator's perspective, the possibility of being handed a smaller budget than Stranger Things may not allow you to deliver on your original vision for a movie or show. Once that project is released into the wild, it may not resonate with Netflix's audience, particularly if it seems poorly produced. In turn, that can lead to Netflix cancelling your production, which might be viewed as money wasted on Netflix's part. Thus, the cycle continues.
Of course, Netflix has proven that a show's success doesn't equate to its automatic renewal for another season or two. Hit shows like Archive 81 have been cancelled by the streaming company over the past few years, so positive audience engagement doesn't always mean a show will live on at Netflix. What it does do, though, is alienate fans of those shows, who might be inclined to cancel their Netflix subscription if they've grown weary of the streamer's decision to pull the plug on fan-favorite productions earlier than expected.
As much as Netflix would arguably like itself to be seen as such, it isn't Marvel. It can't expect to have a success on its hands every time, unlike every Marvel movie or TV show that's been released thus far (if you discount Phase 4 project Eternals, anyway). Netflix pumps out too much content (in a bid to cater to every audience) to achieve that level of success on a regular basis.
However, it's still paying the price for canceling popular shows that its fanbase wants to continue watching. There's no point suggesting that you want to go in a different direction and produce low-cost shows and films if you decide not to renew the most popular ones for further instalments. It's wasted money and does little to instil confidence in your subscriber base that their favorite binge watches will stick around for the long haul.
So yes, shows like Stranger Things 4, Shadow and Bone season 2, and others may need big budgets to make them bigger and better than their predecessors. But, when your shares slump by 40% in the wake of subscriber and financial losses (per Yahoo Finance), forking out almost $300 million on Stranger Things season 4 may not put you in the best light, especially with your audience.
Sign up for Black Friday email alerts!
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.
Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.