Before we get into the extraordinary expenses being accrued in the Taylor Sheridan-verse, according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, let’s take a moment to appreciate the timing: The piece dropped the morning after Paramount Global’s fairly disastrous Q1 earnings report, one that saw a $511 million loss in streaming, a stock price plunge of nearly 28 percent, and inspired a Wells Fargo analyst to strongly suggest that the corporation would be wise to pack it in on streaming altogether.
Hollywood is infamous for coddling its stars, but Sheridan is different: He’s single-handedly responsible for five shows that represent the backbone of Paramount+ (with at least five more in development) and he oversees a small industry that supports it, none of which puts Paramount in the best place to say “no.” (Also this morning, Paramount confirmed “Yellowstone” will conclude after five seasons, with a spinoff starring Matthew McConaughey.)
According to the WSJ, Paramount spends more than $500 million a year on the production of Sheridan’s series, which include “1923,” “1883,” “Tulsa King,” and “Mayor of Kingstown.” (The publication cited the per-episode price tag for “1923” as at least $22 million.) Among its expenses are herds of cattle at $25 a head, over $200,000 for a week-long “cowboy camp,” and paying Harrison Ford’s flight insurance for his hobby of flying prop planes.
Many of Sheridan’s series are filmed on the historic 142,372-acre Four Sixes ranch, which he owns with a consortium of partners including David Glasser’s production company, 101 Studios, which produces the shows.
“He is not writing ‘shoot at my ranch’ in the script. Those demands are never made. When the [line producer] or I go to Taylor and ask him to cut a day out of the schedule for budget purposes, he is more than willing to accommodate,” 101 Studios president Glasser told WSJ. “However, when a line producer comes in and says, ‘Why don’t you cut the river crossing sequence out of the show on “1883,”‘ that for sure will be something he is prepared to lock horns over.”
The first season of “Yellowstone,” which aired in 2018, was expected to cost $7 million per episode. By the end of production, it was more than $20 million over budget due to script and production delays, and with only nine episodes and not the expected 10 to 11. The latest season of “Yellowstone” had a budget of $12 million per episode but ballooned to more than several million dollars over expected costs.
Neither Paramount nor Sheridan responded to IndieWire’s request for comment on the WSJ story. There’s never a good time to detail the massive costs that go into producing the most successful shows on a money-losing streamer, but Sheridan has made clear that he considers the show’s investment in authenticity to be essential to its success.
In a February 1 keynote conversation with National Cattleman’s Beef Association president Don Schiefelbein at the 2023 Cattle Industry Convention, Sheridan said that by using the same high-quality jeans, or saddles, or riding bits favored by actual ranchers, he knew he could attract the attention of the real-life ranchers.
“I wanted it to be real and authentic and I wanted a bunch of cowboys to watch it,” he said. “If I could do [that], I could get everybody to watch it… [Now] there’s a Boot Barn on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, and I put it there.”
He also discussed buying the Four Sixes ranch, which was listed at $350 million in December 2021; Sheridan’s investor group bought the property in May 2022 for $192.2 million. Had he not bought the ranch, Sheridan told Schiefelbein, the Sheridan-verse might never have happened at all.
“My plan was to retire and just run these movie horses and show horses,” he said. “[I told my wife], it’s gonna change that. I’m going to have to go to the network and make a big overall deal with them and write a whole bunch of TV shows for them in order to pull this off.” Sheridan renewed and extended his overall deal with Paramount, which now runs through 2028, in February 2021.
Added Sheridan, “There’s nothing better than a movie company showing up and filming for about a month and paying you a bunch of money and leaving. It’s about the greatest deal going.”