"I kept thinking 'This is pointless. How can we possibly afford a boardwalk, or an empire?' We can't call it '' and not see a boardwalk," Terrence Winter who wrote the pilot for HBO's upcoming .
So they built a 300 foot boardwalk in an empty lot in Brooklyn. In the end, even with the New York tax credits the cost of the pilot came to $18 million according to Variety, but by the time they amortized that expense over all 12 episodes of the first season, costs came out to about $5 million an episode. Hour long dramas on broadcast networks typically come in closer to $3 million. But Variety says the $5 million isn't much more than HBO's other top-tier series (sadly no data to really back that up, though compared to The Pacific, likely seemed inexpensive to HBO).
The Wall Street Journal did a similar article a couple of weeks ago focusing on the expense for other HBO shows and shows on other cable networks. The WSJ piece set the cost of the pilot at between nearly $20 million to closer to $30 million. The piece also notes Boardwalk Empire was HBO's best-selling series ever internationally having already licensed the rights to 160 countries.