When the final drop — or gallon — of blood is shed and an exultant victor has ascended to the Iron Throne, viewers could also be break up over how HBO’s fantasy saga ended however they’re going to be joined in deprivation.
“What do you do with out `Recreation of Thrones?”‘ would be the lament heard after the Might 19 finale, stated media analyst Larry Gerbrandt. The query is much more important to the pay-cable channel, which soared on dragon’s wings with its massively well-liked, eight-season adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels.
Protecting subscribers on board means greater than one other hit, even one as globally dazzling as “Recreation of Thrones” proved to be. However it’s the place HBO can begin to shield its model and place, observers say, an effort each demanded and compounded by an more and more congested small-screen panorama and the expectations of the channel’s company proprietor since 2016, AT&T.
“I feel they want a status present on this degree to stay HBO,” Invoice Carter, a media analyst for CNN and former reporter for The New York Instances. However “greater than ever, it is actually exhausting to discover a hit present and to interrupt by means of on this market.”
The channel is properly into the hunt for a worthy successor, with one risk an untitled prequel to “Recreation of Thrones” created by Martin and Jane Goldman and starring Naomi Watts. Set to start capturing a pilot in June, it is amongst a number of potential “Thrones” spinoffs being weighed, with discussions at HBO about “what number of is simply too many,” stated programming chief Casey Bloys.
“Now we have excessive hopes” for the pilot, he stated. “However I wish to be clear, no person goes into this pondering that we will do a prequel and impulsively everyone who robotically watched `Recreation of Thrones’ goes to observe this. … It’s going to have a distinct really feel and completely different rhythm. We’re not attempting to do the identical present once more.”
That begs the query of what extra HBO has to supply, he stated. Throughout a interval through which “Recreation of Thrones” was off the air for scheduling causes, collection together with “Westworld,” “Sharp Objects” and “Barry” proved robust attracts, Bloys stated.
“I am not going to argue that we can’t miss `Recreation of Thrones.’ It has been a improbable present for us, however life does go on,” he stated. He factors to a deep bench of returnees, together with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon’s “Huge Little Lies,” and newcomers together with the graphic novel-based “Watchmen” from “Misplaced” producer Damon Lindelof. One marquee collection that is additionally in its closing season: the much-admired comedy “Veep,” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
HBO, which launched in 1972 and whose cachet has lengthy justified the boastful slogan, “It isn’t TV. It is HBO,” has reached this crossroads earlier than. On the flip of the century, pop-culture sensations “The Sopranos” and “Intercourse and the Metropolis” boosted the channel’s visibility and subscribers and made it a critical participant for status awards — together with cable’s first-ever Emmys for finest drama and comedy collection. After the exhibits wrapped, the channel moved nimbly on with audience-pleasers together with “Six Toes Beneath” and “True Blood.”
However that was then, and that is the time of streaming — or, in shorthand, Netflix, together with a rising host of others together with Amazon and Hulu — and a shoulder-bumping rush for stars and showmakers to churn out increasingly more fare for shops already awash in programming.
HBO, now not a singular different to staid broadcast networks, additionally bought new company possession when AT&T purchased its mum or dad firm, Time Warner. HBO just lately noticed the exit of its chief govt, Richard Plepler, who had been with the channel for almost 30 years and guided it to “Recreation of Thrones” glory.
With AT&T’s assets, HBO has stepped up manufacturing and can see a 50% improve within the variety of authentic program hours this yr, Bloys stated, arguing that quantity does not preclude prime quality: “There’s nothing in 2019 that we’re placing on the air as a result of we’re attempting to hit an hour depend. … We have not lowered any of our requirements to achieve a sure degree of programming” and there’s no stress to do in any other case from WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, he stated.
Subscribers finally will determine whether or not they suppose the exhibits are what they need. However increasing the pipeline is unavoidable, stated Tuna Amobi, a media and leisure analyst with funding agency CFRA.
“It is a very completely different aggressive panorama for HBO than it was after they launched `Recreation of Thrones,’ and so they understand that. That is why you see them ratcheting up their investments of their programming,” Amobi stated. Additionally key’s how HBO’s on-line platform is built-in with deliberate WarnerMedia streaming choices to achieve the broadest viewers attainable and make full use of its content material, he added.
HBO “can’t depend on the previous methods of doing issues and hope that being a premium channel will bail you out,” he stated.
“Recreation of Thrones,” which debuted in 2011, has flourished regardless of the confounding variety of small-screen decisions. From its first-season common weekly tally of 9.three million cumulative viewers, the collection rose to a seventh-season excessive of 32.eight million throughout all HBO platforms, together with the channel itself and streaming companies HBO Go and HBO Now and over a interval extending 30 days past the season’s finish.
It benefited from the devoted following for Martin’s “A Music of Ice and Hearth” clutch of novels. It was richly and painstakingly produced, filmed in 10 nations together with Northern Eire, the Republic of Eire, Morocco, Iceland and Canada. Its interesting forged grew to become family names, and the feminine characters that grew in stature and energy because the drama unfolded are routinely namechecked as a part of the female-empowerment zeitgeist.
“Recreation of Thrones” may boast of its Emmy dominance as properly, with 47 trophies thus far together with three finest drama collection awards. Final yr, it denied a second consecutive win to a worthy opponent, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Story,” however HBO itself misplaced invaluable Emmy bragging rights: It was surpassed in whole nominations for the primary time in 17 years and by relative newcomer Netflix, and the streamer tied HBO in wins.
Analyst Gerbrandt, of Media Valuation Companions, is not counting the channel out. Many viewers nonetheless like so-called “curated” TV delivered to them, versus looking out on-line by means of dozens or a whole bunch of choices, he stated. There’s additionally the facility of notion at work.
“If there is a model that survives strictly on identify, it is in all probability HBO,” he stated.