Amazon’s ‘The Wheel of Time’ Is More Expensive Than ‘Game of Thrones’

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Nov. 19 2021, Published 2:50 p.m. ET

There hasn't been any official word of how much Amazon paid for the rights to The Wheel of Time. The epic fantasy drama debuted on Amazon Prime Video on Nov. 18. Based on the production cost, it’s safe to say the new series, hailed as the next Game of Thrones, is a huge gamble for the company.

The eight episodes for the first season of The Wheel of Time reportedly cost $10 million apiece, according to GQ. In comparison, the first-season episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones only cost $6 million each.

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With that astronomical budget at play, Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins told GQ that Amazon Studios executives didn’t bat an eye when he burned down the show’s Two Rivers set at the end of Episode 1. “They’re like: ‘Great. What’s next?’”

Judkins was under intense pressure to deliver. Amazon gave him 11,000 notes on the pilot episode alone. “Even if I only do like a tenth of those, that’s still, like, multiple notes per second,” he explained.

A screen adaptation of "The Wheel of Time" has been in the works since 2000.

According to Deadline, NBC optioned the rights to The Wheel of Time in 2000, a decade after fantasy author Robert Jordan published the first volume in the book series.

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In 2004, production company Red Eagle Entertainment acquired the worldwide production and distribution rights to that first book, The Eye of the World, with the intention to adapt the book into a big-screen movie. “The public’s appetite for action fantasy entertainment has been stunningly affirmed with the recent blockbuster success of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter film franchises,” Rick Selvage, the company’s chairman and president, said at the time.

In 2008, the year after Jordan’s death, Universal Pictures bought the film rights to the Wheel of Time book series in a seven-figure deal, according to Variety.

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A 22-minute TV pilot aired in the middle of the night in 2015.

At 1:30 a.m. ET on February 9, 2015, FXX aired a 22-minute Wheel of Time pilot subtitled Winter Dragon, starring Billy Zane and Max Ryan. As Deadline later reported, Red Eagle paid for the FXX airtime in an effort to hold on to the screen rights.

Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow, later issued a statement saying that the pilot was made without her knowledge or cooperation. Also, no one in her camp was informed of the airing. “I am dumbfounded by this occurrence and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence,” she added.

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Red Eagle later sued McDougal for slander but eventually withdrew the suit, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Sony Pictures revived the project in 2017.

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In April 2017—after McDougal told fans the legal issues had been “resolved”—Variety reported that Sony Pictures Television had picked up the Wheel of Time TV adaptation, with Judkins hired as writer and executive producer and Red Eagle on board as producers.

Amazon ordered the project to series in October 2018, and in May 2021—a half-year before the series premiere—the company renewed The Wheel of Time for a second season.

“The belief Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television have shown in The Wheel of Time has been incredible to see throughout the entire process of making this show,” Judkins said at the time. “Getting a second season order before the first season has even premiered is such a vote of confidence in the work we are doing and the property itself, and we couldn’t be happier to be able to continue to live and work in the world Robert Jordan created.”

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