The Fast Five: ‘Game of Thrones’ Lives On, as do the Television Streaming Wars
November 4, 2019
It was a big week for major genre franchises, as HBO and Disney both announced moves that will impact the future of their biggest brands. Meanwhile, Sony jumped out of the streaming war as WarnerMedia jumps in, and Netflix goes to war with creators over whether or not viewers have the right to alter the speed of the finished product.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss Will No Longer Travel To A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Many Game of Thrones fans speculated that the final two seasons of the show suffered by being rushed so that creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss could leave to work on their announced Star Wars trilogy. So it’s possible Disney was worried the Star Wars trilogy would suffer the same fate once the writers got invested in projects stemming from their recently signed Netflix deal. Maybe Disney was upset that Jon Snow never fought The Night King, or maybe Disney just likes firing people from Star Wars. We’ll never know. But what we do know, is that Benioff and Weiss have stepped away from the Star Wars trilogy that was set to re-launch the universe after The Rise of Skywalker. There’s also no word on whether or not the proposed trilogy from The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson is still in active development, so nobody outside of LucasFilm knows who will be responsible for driving this franchise into the next decade. But if history is any indication, they’ll probably be fired anyway.
As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast.” Well, some people adapt to living in this fast-paced world by speeding up their entertainment to save time. YouTube, Audible and almost all podcast apps offer the ability to watch and listen at double-speed and Netflix is trying to offer its subscribers the same opportunity. The streaming service has added an option for android mobile users to speed up movies and shows by 1.5x, drawing the ire of such writers as Judd Apatow, who likened the experience to playing a record for your mother at the wrong speed—an analogy the majority of fans can surely associate with. Yet the concern of writers, directors and actors is a warranted one. They work hard to create a specific piece of art and they don’t want anybody to change it. Unless it’s edited for basic cable. Or for network television. Or overseas distribution…or for airplanes. Or sped up the exact same way by TBS to add an extra two minutes of commercials to Seinfeld reruns. All those are okay. While I’m not about to watch the final season of BoJack Horseman on 1.5x the speed, the world is a chaotic place at the moment and television is meant to be an escape. So, if seeing a Ken Burns documentary slightly faster makes somebody happy, then let them have that.
HBO Kills One Game Of Thrones Prequel But Orders Another
A day after news leaked that HBO would not go forward with the Jane Goldman written Game of Thrones prequel starring Naomi Watts, the premium cable network gave a 10-episode straight-to-series order to House of the Dragon, a different Game of Thrones prequel from Colony co-creator Ryan Condal. The Goldman prequel was chosen from five separate projects that were all being developed as spin-offs of their fantasy series predecessor. This demonstrates the many ways writers can spin stories out of a fully realized universe and proves that Martin’s world-building should be studied by all aspiring fantasy writers. The narratives in the book stem from characters and events in the past that are rife with development potential. While HBO has only gone ahead with one of the six proposed series, don't expect this to be the last Game of Thrones series the network will greenlight, as there are endless opportunities for this world.
Is this the death knell for the skinny bundle? In recent years, people could cut the cable cord and easily enter the new and exciting world of internet television. Operators like PlayStation Vue, SlingTV and DirectTV Now offered up live streaming of much smaller cable channel packages at a discounted price. This was followed by fuboTV, Philo and major players Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV enticing people who wanted to get rid of cable, but still enjoyed watching live television. But internet TV bundles hit the same hurdle as traditional television operators when the time came to renegotiate contracts with the networks. Networks are notorious for demanding that cable operators pay more with each new contract, and also pay to keep a bunch of channels nobody wants in order to get the ones they actually do. It’s a vicious system and one that caused DirecTV Now to raise its prices significantly, before rebranding as AT&T TV to get rid of the bad price-hike publicity. Now, another early player will exit the field as Sony announces it’s shutting down PlayStation Vue amid rising costs and increased competition. Internet TV used to be the hope for people who wanted to finally cut that cord, but now the prices are aligning with entry level cable packages and it looks like most people will have to focus on streaming services when they get rid of their cable subscription.
WarnerMedia finally announced some actual details around its new streaming service that will look to piggyback off the good name of HBO. HBO Max will officially launch in May 2020 at a price point of $15 a month, which is the exact same as the stand-alone HBO streaming service. Subscribing is pretty much a no-brainer for current HBO subscribers, since HBO Max will include all of HBO’s content, and that’s just what WarnerMedia is banking on. Once people have gotten used to HBO Max, you can expect WarnerMedia to discontinue the stand-alone HBO Go or raise the price of HBO Max. There’s always a chance they will do both, something AT&T has a history with—see above. At the same price as HBO and including library content including the recently acquired South Park and Rick & Morty, HBO Max may seem like a bargain. But it really had no choice, considering its recent competitors Apple+ and Disney+ are launching this month at $5 and $7 a month respectively.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.