In the comments from my last post, Marko brings up an interesting point of discussion. Does the fact that Game of Thrones is based on a book series help or hurt its chances at building up a large viewership? On one hand, you have the built in fan base that an adaptation brings, but on the other hand you lose that element of “what is going to happen next” that seems to drive popular sci-fi/fantasy shows, such as Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes. Anyone remotely curious about the direction of the plot in Thrones need only to visit their local library. So which is better for building a large and passionate fan base?
Personally, I feel that basing a series on a popular book/comic/story is not detremental to its success. The examples of popular movie franchises (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) and TV series (True Blood, The Tudors, Rome) based on books or otherwise pre-existing storylines is numerous. Certainly, to fans of these books or periods of history, the element of surprise is lost and unexpected plot-twists are non-existant. But the interest is still there, in the form of being able to see your favorite characters and locations come to life on screen.
For those unfamiliar with the source material, one of two things will happen. If the series is good and they become a fan, certainly they may go pick up the books and “spoil” themselves for the remainder of the television run. But if they like the show enough to pick up the books, they will most likely remain fans of the show after reading the series. They will just now be watching the show for the same reasons all of us will be watching. And if the person is an avid non-reader, they will enjoy watching the show and seeing the plot unfold on screen and probably never touch the books. Either way, you have a viewer hooked on the show. Which we can all agree is a good thing.