What's next for HBO after 'Game of Thrones' ends
- Last night saw the series finale of Game of Thrones
- HBO has been able to count on the show to bring with it a lucrative Sunday night audience for almost ten years
- There are Game of Thrones prequels in the works, but they won't be ready until 2021
- The company has lined up other sci-fi/fantasy series, such as the continuation of Westworld and new series His Dark Materials
So, HBO. What else you got?
On Sunday night, the network aired the finale of Game of Thrones, its most-popular show ever, leaving a programming void big enough for a dragon to fly through. Even HBO comedian John Oliver joked this month about the network’s anxiety after the fantasy series completes its eighth and final season.
“In two weeks’ time this network is so deeply f---ed,” Oliver said.
But HBO executives have known for a while this day would come, and have been filling their pipeline with ambitious new shows, including a Game of Thrones prequel, to keep subscribers happy. Under new owner AT&T Inc., the network is boosting its original programming slate by 50 per cent this year, creating more chances for another blockbuster.
“We do have a culture of nurturing talent and spending on talent, and we want a creator’s vision to come to life,” Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, said in an interview. “We’ll spend the money to do that.”
In 2019, the network boosted production of scripted programming to 150 hours from 100 hours, an increase that Bloys said had been planned for several years. HBO has hired more people in development and production to shepherd that larger slate.
Finding another hit on the order of “Game of Thrones” won’t be easy, especially with about 500 scripted TV shows fighting for attention industrywide.
The era of streaming has ratcheted up the pressure on HBO in new ways. Competitors like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are churning out more ambitious programming and competing for a finite amount of consumers’ leisure time and money.
At the same time, it’s gotten easier to drop HBO if a show such as “Game of Thrones” is all you want to see. Instead of spending time on the phone with a Comcast or DirecTV representative, a viewer can cancel HBO online with just a click, according to Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research. As one Twitter user wrote, “The only good thing about Game of Thrones ending is that I can finally cancel my HBO subscription.”
HBO has about 140 million subscribers globally, including around 50 million in the U.S., according to a network spokesman. Of the domestic total, more than 7 million subscribe through the online version HBO Now.