Sky purchases rights to air HBO in UK
By Winter Is Coming on in News.

With all the hubbub of the recast and the three new ladies, something that may have got lost in the mix is this report from The Guardian that British Sky Broadcasting has purchased the rights to all HBO shows past and present. This, of course, includes Game of Thrones.

The satellite TV company has signed a content deal with HBO, the US channel that revolutionised the television market by launching a pay-TV service that screens big-budget dramas. The Sky deal, expected to be announced this morning, will give Sky access to HBO’s archive and all forthcoming shows over the lifetime of the agreement. It is believed to be worth around £150m over five years.

Additionally, Ran from Westeros.org is reporting that the BBC, who initially was going to be a financing partner for Thrones much as they were for Rome, is now out.

Winter Is Coming: Good news and bad news, I guess. Good news in that, from what I hear, Sky does a great job marketing their shows. Unfortunately, as a pay channel the potential viewership and overall exposure is not nearly the same as for a show on the BBC.

As to the BBC not being a financial backer for Thrones, I think it’s a good thing. Yeah, it would have been nice to have a little extra money to add to the budget, but one of the reasons Rome was canceled was because the BBC dropped out after two years and the full budget was too much for HBO to handle. Now HBO can budget Thrones according to what they can afford and they won’t have to worry about another broadcaster having such a huge influence on whether or not the show can stay on the air.


123 Comments

  1. xxxtreme
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    hah first!

    I think its a good think. No go BBC!

  2. Hear Me Roar
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Makes things less complicated, I guess. Not too bad, no.

  3. Lucy Richer
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Well, can’t exactly say I’m happy about it, though for sure benefits are there.

    There’s no chance I’ll be able to get Sky any time in the next four years, so I probably won’t see the UK broadcast (I’ll find other ways though, I’m sure). I think it’s a given that this will massively decrease the potential of the show over here. It’s the kind of programme that people who don’t really have any sense of the HBO brand could still really get into – and I’d say that (relatively speaking, of course) for obvious reasons the show could be a much, much bigger deal on this side of the Atlantic. For sure Lost was very popular, but still, popular primarily with a niche (and young) audience. And regardless, it was shown initially on terrestrial TV.

    Obviously, HBO are getting a ton of money from the deal, and it’s something they couldn’t really get away with not taking. But it’s a shame for the show, as I’d say to a very large number of would-be viewers, there’ll be essentially no exposure at all.

  4. Jackie
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I’m actually pretty happy with this.

    1) It’s less likely that Sky will censor the episodes (unlike the BBC).

    2) Sky have a habit of airing a prized show very close to the US air dates (same week) and of course the Lost finale aired simultaneously (not that I’m expecting that).

    I don’t know the details of the contact but perhaps it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be aired on terrestrial TV at some point perhaps it’s just that Sky get first dibs.

  5. Samantha Hirst
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing the BBC is out as they’re facing some huge cuts, as well as talk that the license fee is going to be lowered (that is not for definite but it’s being talked about), which will lower their revenue. It’s a pity though, because financing GoT would bring a lot of money in. However, I do think it a good thing in the sense that, as has been said, HBO now know what they can work with money wise, without planning for one budget and then not getting it when BBC pull out, a la Rome.

    It is sad though that it has gone on Sky; I get Sky so I’m fine and dandy, but not everybody does, and not everybody can afford it. It is a shame, but at least we are getting it in the UK………..we are getting it at the same time aren’t we? We aren’t going to be paying for something that is months behind? Better not be. But yeah, it is a shame, but it’s the same in the US; HBO is a pay-channel, so it’s not as if the USA is getting it for free whilst we’re having to fork out.

  6. OzXaro
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure about this at all.

    I think it’s much easier for a show to sink without trace on Sky than on the BBC. The BBC isn’t completely ratings-driven so they have an obligation to the viewers beyond popularity. I think if the show doesn’t take off quickly on Sky, they’ll stop supporting it. Ratings the only thing they care about.

  7. John
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Gr, I like for Brits to have an influence on the show. Still, it’s not the kind of show that will have US slang or anything in it, especially as much of the cast is British.

    Did many of you notice the British phrases in Rome?

  8. dizzy_34
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I guess no co-financial partner can turn out to be good. So the Sky deal just goes into the HBO collective coffers?

  9. Heather Buckman
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I completely agree with Lucy. I really think this needs to be shown to a wider audience. I’m so excited to see this series but there is no way I can afford the subscription fee for Sky. The best solution I can think of is to subscribe to the cheaper Sky player online, but of course this would only be useful if they are allowed to show it online (hopefully the answer is yes).

    Also the contract seems to give Sky exclusive right to these shows in the UK. There’s not much chance that Murdoch will let other non-Sky channels show it.

    I am not a happy bunny.

  10. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    dizzy_34, exactly. More $$$ for all their shows, with Thrones being near the top of the list, I’m sure.

    As to Sky not being able to give the show huge exposure in the UK… yeah, it’s a bit of a bummer but not essential to the show’s success. As long as the ratings in the US are there, it will stay on air. If the show catches on in the UK, then great. But that would just be a bonus for HBO, not a key point in deciding whether to continue with the show or not.

  11. LeftHanded Matt
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Sky may be a premium pay service here in the UK, but it’s pretty widespread – plus it’s channels are available with other cable companies such as Virgin Media. Sky One took the exclusive rights to Lost away from (the free) Channel 4, it didn’t make it any less popular.

    As mentioned earlier, Sky do have a good record of airing US shows very close to the US broadcast (Lost and Stargate Universe were around a week behind). If they are taking True Blood away from FX, maybe we’ll finally get season 3 broadcast soon.

  12. LeftHanded Matt
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    In addition, Sky will promote the show FAR more effectively than the BBC (BBC don’t have advertisments, and if they are promoting a new show you have to be lucky enough to catch a quick trailer for it in between other programs).

    Plus, they have the freeview channel Sky Three which may pick up the show eventually (admittedly, a fair while after the Sky One showing).

  13. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Potential bad news for UK viewers, this Digital Spy report makes it sound like Sky may wait until after Thrones‘ run in the US before airing it. :(

    Under the deal, Sky will broadcast HBO’s new fantasy drama Game of Thrones and the Dustin Hoffman-starring Luck after they have been aired in the US. It will also have first negotiation for rights to new series of established HBO shows and any future HBO UK co-productions.

  14. LeftHanded Matt
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    Difficult to interpret the way that article is written. They may mean each EPISODE will be broadcast after the US showing, not the entire series.

  15. Lucy Richer
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    There are other benefits to the show of a big UK profile though, for example, attracting actors for later seasons – that sort of thing. Having a show compromised almost entirely of UK actors, and with many UK staff, filmed in the UK, with NI funding, well, it just seems counter-intuitive not to get the profile raised as highly as possible…

  16. Heather Buckman
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    @Winter – Bummer! They can’t do that to us :-(

  17. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    LeftHanded Matt, yeah, it’s not totally clear. However they make a point of stating that Boardwalk Empire will air shortly after its premiere. Whereas in the sentence immediately following that instead of using the same language or saying that Thrones and Luck will follow the same arrangement they just state they will air “after” they have aired in the US. :/

    Lucy Richer, I see what you mean. However it seems they’ve already achieved a pretty big profile with all the recognizable British actors being cast, Clarke and Lloyd as Stars of Tomorrow, The Guardian asking if it is the most anticipated series ever, etc. Obviously, being on this side of the pond means I’m disconnected from what is considered big in the UK, but so far it seems Thrones is on its way.

  18. Adam Whitehead
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Actually, the profile of LOST in the UK plummeted after it moved from C4 to Sky One. The viewership dropped by about 75% due to fewer people having Sky, it was discussed less and a lot of my friends who’d been watching it casually never saw another episode. It got substantially less media coverage as well (only a couple of British magazines even covered the series ending in much detail, certainly nothing like the wall-to-wall cover stories in the US).

    So, on that basis, I am disappointed by this news. GAME OF THRONES will go from being a high-profile show which most people would likely sample an episode or two from to a niche cable drama.

    That said, Sky are pretty loyal to their shows. They continued airing BSG despite it bombing constantly in the ratings, as far as I can tell just because the programme directors at Sky liked it. And it’s possible a terrastrial broadcaster will show it later. So, a bit of a bummer overall, although I’m okay (as my housemate has Sky).

  19. Jon Hunter
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Ok im gutted for numerous reasons

    Firstly it measn the show is only viewable by about 30% of the UK population, and it wont take of in a big way over here, Ok its less likley to.

    Secondly it means it is more likley I may have to give money to that **** Rupert Murdoch.

    We may have to wait longer to see the show.

    We will watch it interupted with adverts

    Im sure the shows future doesn’t rest on its UK viewers, but I think HBO have hurt themslevs and sky have made a good move here.

    However I think box set sales will be better in the long run

  20. Maxwell James
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Sky One took the exclusive rights to Lost away from (the free) Channel 4, it didn’t make it any less popular.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. On Sky, it seems the peak viewership for GOT in the UK would probably be 1 – 1.5 million. That’s not necessarily bad (I think equivalent ratings in the US would be 5-7.5 million, quite solid for an HBO show), but it does limit the exposure.

  21. Franny Bee
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Will this be on HBO Canada

  22. mummer
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Didn’t the BBC edit Rome pretty severely?

  23. Nymeria
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Franny Bee,

    Yes, GRRM confirmed it a little while ago.
    But the teaser wasn’t…

  24. Nymeria
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Franny Bee,

    Here is the link to the post where GRRM confirms “In Canada, the show will be seen on HBO Canada, same days and times as in the US.” as well as other international channels.

  25. Dario
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    In my opinion, BBC makes good works on TV movies (not as HBO, obviously), but if the british network could give to AGOT problems as happened with Rome, I’m happy it’s out!

  26. Nick Jenkins
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the BBC won’t be airing the show, if anything I think Sky will do a much better job with it. If you remember when Rome was still gracing our televisions, the BBC did a terrible marketing job with it. IIRC it was shown late at night (about 10pm) on BBC2 with very little publicity surrounding it. I remember having to tell a lot of people about it as they had no idea. Sky on the other hand will no doubt milk every new HBO show that comes out after having spent so much money to acquire the rights. I can’t say for certain but I think there was a similar situation with the Wire. I for one never saw it on TV and only discovered it when a friend insisted on lending me his boxset. I’m not sure why the BBC do this but they really don’t take advantage of marketing, especially when they pay so much for the rights to these shows…

  27. Karl McMahon
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Hopefully SKY will show the series on their SKY Premier Channel as they did with the recent Pacific series. This way it will be shown without the interruption of commercial breaks, as it will be on HBO’s own channel in the US.

    As to whether they would get less viewers than the BBC, I don’t think this will be the case. SKY market their programmes so much more effectively than the BBC in my opinion, and have a much better record of showing major TV series than BBC or ITV.

  28. Wastrel
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    As I said in the other thread: I think this is terrible news. It’s certainly terrible news for me, and I can’t see how it isn’t bad news for GOT, and it’ll probably be bad news for HBO as well.

  29. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Wastrel, I understand how it’s bad for you as a viewer. But how is it bad for Thrones or HBO?

  30. S_N_A
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    FUCK Murdoch.

    I totally understand Wastrel, and am now in the same damn boat. Will have to download.

    I cant describe how much I hate Sky.

  31. Mormegil
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Karl McMahon: Hopefully SKY will show the series on their SKY Premier Channel as they did with the recent Pacific series. This way it will be shown without the interruption of commercial breaks, as it will be on HBO’s own channel in the US. As to whether they would get less viewers than the BBC, I don’t think this will be the case. SKY market their programmes so much more effectively than the BBC in my opinion, and have a much better record of showing major TV series than BBC or ITV.  Quote  Reply

    Putting it on Sky Movies Premiere would limit the viewers even more than it being on Sky 1 as it’s not part of the basic sky package.

    Yes it would show without adverts but it would also have done so on the BBC.

  32. Jon Hunter
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    I think you dont understand theres more to this than just whats good for Game of Thrones.

    Via his national newspapers Murdock tries to select the UK government, and has bragged so in the past.

    Though his Sky TV money he has pretty much wrecked the english soccer premiership ( with the help of alot of greedy chairman and players).

    Sky is bad news for most things it comes into contact with in the UK.

  33. Nick Jenkins
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering whether Sky will create a new channel (i.e. SkyHBO) for all its new shows or whether they will just be shown on Sky’s normal entertainment channels.

    Oh and for those who hate Sky, there are plenty of cable packages available, all of which include Sky One etc. Although this doesn’t work for the Murdoch haters as he still receives a fee from the cable companies.

  34. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Is Sky ridiculously more expensive than HBO or something? It seems like there is a bit of uproar over it being on a pay channel in the UK, but it is also on a pay channel anywhere else.

  35. Nick Jenkins
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Sky is different to HBO, it’s a satellite company with many channels. This therefore makes it quite an expensive alternative to the BBC which is of course free.

  36. Jon Hunter
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Chris,

    Yep were spoilt we get great ‘free’ TV in the BBC, my american wife took trouble to explain to me that there is nothign close to it the states.

    Realistically the BBC is a governement enforced subscription system costing £10 a month which we call the TV license fee, however quality is high, it makes great original programming, and contains no adverts.

    Sky has com into existance by buying the rights to most sporting events that we could watch for free before and then charging us to watch them.

    It has made no worthwhile orignal programming, the only things it does well is buys good programs form the US first.

  37. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Jon Hunter, I understand the politic aspect of things. I just don’t see how it being on Sky hurts HBO or Thrones in any way. If anything, it helps them.

    HBO has their money up front and can budget their shows accordingly. If Thrones does poorly in the UK, that affects Sky, not HBO. If it does well in the UK, HBO can consider it a bonus as it should help drive DVD sales and help them in any future negotiations.

    The bototm line is that it is now up to the US audience as to whether Thrones stays on the air or not. If it does great in the US, it stays. If it does poorly, it goes.

  38. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Nick Jenkins,

    Ah, okay. I was looking at the website and it was hard to figure out what exactly it was, being from the U.S. I guess here it is pretty much commonplace to pay a lot for cable and then to pay even more if you want to watch anything good(HBO, SHOWTIME, etc).

  39. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Well it sounds like Sky just buys the rights to air the show from HBO, so I don’t see it’s performance hurting HBO at all, besides maybe hurting HBO’s perception in the UK or lessening the chances of Sky buying out other shows.

    I’d imagine HBO is solely independent in GoT’s success and survival and anything coming from Sky is just an added bonus to put in the coffers.

  40. userj
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get the freakout. AFAIK you Sky is analagous to basic cable here in the US… So pretty darn cheap. Whereas Sky Movie Premiere would be like HBO is here (so similar to premium cable packages here). If GoT was reaired on TBS or FX or something I’d be psyched because it would be so much easier to get access to it (well provided they didn’t edit anything)!

    Can’t the Brits go to a public place to view Sky shows like I can do with basic cable here in the US? Or find a friend who has Sky and watch with them (if 30% of UK residents have it it shouldn’t be hard). As I’m pretty poor, I’m planning to pitch in with my friends to get HBO while GoT is running here.

  41. Jon Hunter
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    We are looking at it from two different perspectives.

    As an american it really doesnt matter to you.

    As a brit I don’t want to give an penny to Murdocks sky, and will probably have wait till the box set coems out to see game of thrones. Abit of pain when you run a game of thrones site.

  42. Brian
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    In the US most HBO shows are also available shortly after their broadcast date on the Apple iTunes store, which is a nice alternative to paying the cable company for basic channels, HBO premium channels, and again for the HDTV version of the signal. (grumble Comcast grumble)

    Anyone care to speculate on what video on demand options would be in the UK, given the HBO/Sky partnership.

  43. oenone
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    honestly, what is with all you people saying you can’t afford sky 1, do none of you work? Its not very expensive, especially if you get a cheap virgin package.

  44. dizzy_34
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that sucks for UK fans…I don’t know how their rights deal is worked out but maybe if enough people write HBO and Sky they’ll release it sooner.

  45. Steven Scott
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Jon Hunter: Winter Is Coming,
    We are looking at it from two different perspectives.As an american it really doesnt matter to you.As a brit I don’t want to give an penny to Murdocks sky, and will probably have wait till the box set coems out to see game of thrones. Abit of pain when you run a game of thrones site.    

    Or you could just download it.

  46. oenone
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Jon Hunter: Hunter

    Hunter,

    30%? where do you get this figure from? Almost everyone i know either has sky or virgin… and so what if sky get your money, didn’t know asoiaf readers were a bunch of hippies, do you really think you can go through life and not give money to people/companies you disagree with? good luck.

  47. The Dude
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    oenone,

    You ignorant little man. Rupert Murdoch owns Fox, they cancelled Firefly, one of the best series ever made. I would not give that mean pathetic old man a penny either, tho being from scandinavia I’ll just download the show and buy it on dvd later. Oh how I miss Mal, Wash and the rest of the crew.

  48. Steven Scott
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Brian: In the US most HBO shows are also available shortly after their broadcast dateon the Apple iTunes store, which is a nice alternative to paying the cable company for basic channels, HBO premium channels, and again for the HDTV version of the signal.(grumble Comcast grumble)Anyone care to speculate on what video on demand options would be in the UK, given the HBO/Sky partnership.    

    Uhhhh no they aren’t. Big Love, The Pacific, and Treme still aren’t up on the iTunes store. HBO takes its sweet ass time putting things up on iTunes.

  49. Mormegil
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    My main gripe is that a lot less people will be watching it.

    If the BBC had it it would have at least a couple of million viewers even if they put it on BBC2 at 11pm (on BBC1 it would be 3 or 4 million), If it’s on Sky1 I’m guessing it would only get half of that and if it’s on a payperview SkyHBO channel or Sky Movies Premiere even less (I think “The Pacific” got at most about 700,000)

  50. spacechampion
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Franny Bee: Will this be on HBO Canada    

    Yes. I believe GRRM announced that a while ago.

  51. OzXaro
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    oenone: Jon Hunter: HunterHunter,
    30%? where do you get this figure from? Almost everyone i know either has sky or virgin… and so what if sky get your money, didn’t know asoiaf readers were a bunch of hippies, do you really think you can go through life and not give money to people/companies you disagree with? good luck.    

    Are you saying people shouldn’t try to be ethical about which companies they give their money to. That’s a little hard to swallow.

    Like it or not, a lot of people have a strong objection to Rupert Murdoch and how his business empire operates. They won’t get Sky, even if they’re hardcore GRRM fans.

  52. Zac Beach
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s great that BBC is not co-financing. It only made me nervous because of what happened with ‘Rome’.

    I’m not sure how Sky works since I live in Michigan. But more than ratings, HBO cares about subscriptions. We need to find a way to say, “we are subscribing specifically to watch ‘Game of Thrones’.” If it gets at least two million viewers every Sunday, AND sees a quantifiable uptick in subscribers, then season 2 is definitely a go.

  53. Samantha Hirst
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    OzXaro:
    Are you saying people shouldn’t try to be ethical about which companies they give their money to. That’s a little hard to swallow.Like it or not, a lot of people have a strong objection to Rupert Murdoch and how his business empire operates. They won’t get Sky, even if they’re hardcore GRRM fans.    

    Then so be it. Rupert Murdoch personally doesn’t bother me – I couldn’t give a two hoots about his empire, his life, his money and what he does with it; but I respect people’s right to be bothered by him and take action (in the sense of not purchasing Sky etc.). So yeah, you’re either going to have to resort to downloading illegally or waiting for the boxset. I just think totally hating on this and having a huge hissy fit (not you personally, I mean the collective) is an overreaction. Why should we Brits expect it to be on the BBC, a free channel (when you discount the TVLicense) when everybody else is having to fork out for the privilege of watching? When the BBC were co-financers then yes, I for one would have been mighty peeved if it wasn’t aired on the Beeb, but they ain’t. Not any more.

    As far as viewing figures, I think you guys are reading entirely too much into this. Crap viewing figures in the UK isn’t going to stop HBO making GoT and future seasons. It might mean Sky drops it, but it won’t mean HBO stops. Putting it on the BBC does not guarantee good viewing figures- they hash it like they did with Rome and viewing figures go down. Yes, I totally feel for those who can’t/won’t buy Sky, but the BBC is not the promised land. Add to that what I said above about why should we expect it on BBC and I think I’m done.

  54. Aoede
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    oenone: Jon Hunter: HunterHunter,
    30%? where do you get this figure from? Almost everyone i know either has sky or virgin… and so what if sky get your money, didn’t know asoiaf readers were a bunch of hippies, do you really think you can go through life and not give money to people/companies you disagree with? good luck.    

    ASoIaF readers are not obliged to conform to your expectations for them.

  55. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Jon Hunter: As a brit I don’t want to give an penny to Murdocks sky, and will probably have wait till the box set coems out to see game of thrones. Abit of pain when you run a game of thrones site.  

    I completely understand that aspect of it. The thing I don’t understand is how you and others (like Wastrel) are saying that this move is bad for HBO and bad for Game of Thrones. I could not disagree more with that sentiment, so I’m really curious to hear why you think that way.

  56. Wastrel
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Some points about why this is a big issue:

    1. Sure, Americans have to pay for good TV. In the UK, we don’t. We expect it to be free, and we budget for it to be free. So having to pay for it is a big deal. It seems that Americans all have at least basic cable already. We don’t. Under a third of households have Sky, and they’re not evenly distributed, and the numbers are falling thanks to Freeview and Freesat. As a guy in my twenties, I don’t think I have any friends who have Sky – though many of their parents do.

    2. Lots of us CAN’T get Sky. Sure, almost everywhere can receive Sky, but most rented accomodation doesn’t come with Sky. And as I said before, I’m not paying up to £150 for the next tenant to have it…

    3. There’s considerable public antipathy toward Sky, particularly in the demographics the show is probably aiming for.

    4. I know US ratings are more important. But you know, shows like “Robin Hood”, “Merlin”, and “Doctor Who” can get 6 million viewers (up to 10 for the last, but I guess there are lots of kids). I’d expect GOT, if properly marketed on C4 or BBC1, to get possibly that many, and safely get half that many if it’s good, and probably get at least a quarter that many as a niche/cult thing. [True Blood premiered with around 1.5 million and is now getting 2, and 'Vampire sex in the American South' marketed to women isn't exactly mainstream - I'd say it's more niche than GoT, if the latter is marketed as gritty, plotty, pseudo-history, rather than as dragon-and-zombie fantasy; Lost premiered with 6 million, iirc, and kept hold of over 2 million into the second series, when the lustre and novelty had worn off - if it had been better, it could have kept a lot of that, I guess].

    Now, given that a show like ‘True Blood’ is apparently considered a hit in the US with figures of 6.5 million for the third series premier… how does HBO turning down 2-5 million viewers in the UK make sense from the point of view of the health of the series? Because there may be fewer of us, but we don’t have a lot of viewing options, so series can be big here. And even if we don’t subscribe to HBO, they could charge C4, plus the more people watch it, and have heard of it, the more DVDs they’re going to sell. Especially since a NI production packed with British actors is a natural sell – they could easily whip up a lot of media attention just from the novelty value of it.
    [At Sky, there won't be more than 2 million viewers maximum, and I suspect it'll be less than 1 million even if it's 'successful'. If they put it on a special channel, it'll be 500k.]

    And everyone else will have to get it elsewhere. And I reckon people with the episodes stored on their computer will be LESS likely to buy boxed sets than people who saw it on TV!

  57. Ian Haigh
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I think the word ‘free’ has been used a little too much with regards to the BBC. It’s not and it never will be. That’s what the TV Licence is (most of which probably goes to Murdoch as well). However, you have to pay it to watch ANY TV over here. On top of that, you’d have to pay for SKY, giving Murdoch yet more money.

    Then there would be the issue of it running later than the US. Could someone please explain to me why they do that?

    Compare that with being able to quickly find it on the internet (albeit lower quality) for free and very soon after it’s broadcast in the US.

    What do you think the majority of British ASOIAF fans are going to want to do?

    Also, consider Lost, which had already built up a fan base and attracted the attention of the Brits before it went to Sky. GOT would be starting from scratch and yes, Sky do advertise more, but none-sky viewers wouldn’t really see or even try and avoid much of this advertising… Personally, I see ‘Sky’ written on some billboard or something and I look elsewhere.

  58. Lex
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. Sounds like GRRM saw it as good news? Also, I’m a bit confused since HBO is also a pay network, why wouldn’t they do the same in the UK?

    Also, I wouldn’t be too worried about this affecting HBO. They obviously understood the situation when they sold the rights to Sky, so they must be fine with it (and all its implications for viewership ratings).

  59. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    OzXaro:
    Are you saying people shouldn’t try to be ethical about which companies they give their money to. That’s a little hard to swallow.Like it or not, a lot of people have a strong objection to Rupert Murdoch and how his business empire operates. They won’t get Sky, even if they’re hardcore GRRM fans.    

    Well, paying for Sky may be helping Rupert Murdoch, but not paying for it and downloading it illegally would hurt the Game of Thrones production. I guess it comes down to which one of your convictions is stronger.

    To me, no matter what you pay for these days, there are probably some greedy, rich, sometimes evil bastards towards the tops of those companies. HBO is owned by Time Warner, and there are probably quite a few shmucks who’s paychecks you are supporting just by following / watching / paying for Game of Thrones. That’s just the way it works with these large companies, unfortunately.

  60. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    There’s also a good chance that the BBC wanted to air it but Sky was willing to pay more money to purchase the rights. And, were willing to not completely butcher it like the BBC apparently did with Rome. To me, I would rather sell my product to someone who wasn’t going to butcher it, even if that meant less viewers.

  61. Jon Hunter
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    Its probably not bad for Game of thrones in a global scale, but it think its reduced Game of Thrones potential audience in the UK by about 70%.

    For a show to gain widespread impact in the UK it still needs to be on the main terrestrial channels.

    Yes HBO will be paid handsomley for the show by Sky, but will Game of throne s be big in the UK? Probably not.

    I also expect the media buzz here to die down also, the media is much more interested in one what the BBC, channel 4 and ITV do than Sky.

  62. Wastrel
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Wastrel,

    Three more points, the first a recapitulation:

    - How many people watch GOT DOES matter to HBO. DVDs aren’t just a little extra for them now, they’re a huge deal. And shows that people don’t watch, shows that fewer people even hear about, have lower DVD sales. They get put into the ‘oh, I heard that so-and-so was good’ pile if they’re lucky, or just the ‘hey, have I heard that name somewhere?’ pile – rather than the ‘I need to rewatch this!’ pile or the ‘everyone’s raving about it but I missed the early episodes!’ pile. And I think we know which piles actually get bought when money’s scarce.

    - Why should we expect free TV when the Americans can’t? Well, should we not protest if they dismantle the NHS, or the railways? We aren’t Americans. If we think we’re not entitled to any more than Americans give themselves, we’ll end up with a country like America. And – no disrespect to the Americans here – I don’t think any of us want that!

    - Besides, who’s saying we’re ‘entitled’ to GOT on terrestrial? I’m not. I’m just saying it’s very unfortunate, and doesn’t sound like good business sense.

    - I know the BBC messed up with Rome. But if we’re going to give HBO credit for learning lessons, shouldn’t the same credit be extended to the Beeb? The bizarre way of showing the Wire wasn’t the BBC’s fault, it was forced on them by HBO (probably effectively – it got enough people hooked to buy DVDs, but prevented them from managing to watch it all on TV, so again more DVDs). They managed things like “Extras”, “Five Days”, “House of Saddam”, “Band of Brothers” and the like, all HBO/BBC coproductions.

    I think a lot of time has passed since Rome, and both HBO and the BBC are more savy about modern viewers. I don’t think they would have bollocksed up GOT in the same way.

  63. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Chris: There’s also a good chance that the BBC wanted to air it but Sky was willing to pay more money to purchase the rights. And, were willing to not completely butcher it like the BBC apparently did with Rome. To me, I would rather sell my product to someone who wasn’t going to butcher it, even if that meant less viewers.    

    Reading some more of the story, I guess Sky bought rights to ALL HBO shows. So I guess this has nothing to do in particular with Game of Thrones.

    Maybe it will work out better in the long run once viewers realize that any and all HBO shows will be shown on Sky, as opposed to occasionally airing on the BBC at odd times and in edited form. Who knows. I’m sure HBO has good reasons for doing so, even if it is just money related.

  64. Chris
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Wastrel: Why should we expect free TV when the Americans can’t? Well, should we not protest if they dismantle the NHS, or the railways? We aren’t Americans.

    Not to get into a nationalistic argument, but that is just a silly point to make. You can’t compare the NHS or the railways to a media corporation, let alone an American media corporation that relies upon subscription fees to keep making shows that people around the world want to watch.

  65. Joseph
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    oenone,

    I think you perhaps miss the point. Plenty of people who were extremely pysched up to see this show (and were hoping to see it on a ad-free, DOG-free channel where it could reach a large UK audience) are now upset that it is going to a satellite broadcaster whose attitude to original drama or anything that does not turn a instant profit is much like it’s parent global corporation-axe it, get the ratings up. A organisation which although it wants to control as much of the UK marketplace as possible and uses its political/media influence to attack the BBC nonstop to it’s advantage does not give a fig about producing new content with British workforces, instead relying on imports and being as creatively bland as possible. Known for snatching sports events up and practically nothing else.

    Plus, it’s an extension of the whole Sun/Times/Fox/NewsCorp axis which is trying to grab too damn much political power in Britain these days.

    Still, I will definitely buy the DVDs. Just wish there was a good reason to watch it on broadcast time legally.

  66. Aoede
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Chris:
    Not to get into a nationalistic argument, but that is just a silly point to make. You can’t compare the NHS or the railways to a media corporation, let alone an American media corporation that relies upon subscription fees to keep making shows that people around the world want to watch.    

    …I believe Wastrel is rather comparing the lack of such things, resulting in the necessity for private corporations, to an American media corporation &c.

  67. Jon Hunter
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    oenone,

    I prefer not to give money to comapnies I disagree with ….

    ‘Its the sun wot won it’ brag in relation to the 1992 general election that screwed it with me and murdoch, and what really gets me is that it is true.

    No one becomes prime minister in the UK without murdocks approval and that gets my goat, it really does.

  68. Crystal Sky
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see the Sky deal as a disaster, but I have a hard time seeing it as a good thing. Perhaps BBC wasn’t the right vehicle for GoT, but how about ITV? If I’m not wrong, they broadcasted FlashForward and I thought they were pretty good at marketing it. I generally think ITV and Channel 4 are a bit more hip than BBC anyway and probably don’t censure as much.

    I think the problem with Sky is that it requires such a big infrastructure in place, the dish, the box etc – somehow it is not the same as American cable where you just play, plug in the chord and are on your way. Frankly I only got Sky because I couldn’t get Freeview in my apartment complex, but I don’t see the great attraction of paying the dish and box and all the installation just to get Sky stuff. I find that even Sky Movies is not that great – they keep rerunning the same movies over and over and do not seem to care about artsy films at all.

    So, while the Sky deal is not doomsday news, it surely restricts viewership as many have pointed out previously. That means no media hype, less DVD sales, what have you. It probably doesn’t matter to HBO, since like all American channels are interested in US viewership only, but it matters to us in the UK. I would have liked to see GoT stuff making front pages in magazines and newspapers etc.

    That beings said, what I find to be really bad news, is the suggestion Sky will air GoT after the US season. That is, I think, really bad, and I hope it’s not true – it makes no sense business-wise! There’s no way British GoT/ASOIAF fans will be able to wait that long. That kind of policy just encourages illegal downloading, and implicitly, financial loss for Sky.

  69. OzXaro
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Samantha Hirst,

    Don’t get me wrong, I already have Sky, so it’s not a problem for me. I just know that other people will be put off by it.

    What irritates me is that people don’t really talk about shows that go out on sky. There won’t be any kind of buzz around it and it’s going to be much harder to get friends and family into watching it now.

  70. Zac Beach
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    okay but what Phil is saying is it’s not bad for HBO or Game of Thrones. It’s just bad for the UK audience.

  71. Adam Whitehead
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Maxwell James,

    And that was only for the high-profile start on Sky. After Season 3 had been underway for a while, the ratings dropped to about half a million, and stayed there until the bitter end.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/may/25/lost-finale-tv-ratings

  72. Liesie
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    So whatdoes this mean for the rest of Europe???? I had basically put all my hopes on the BBC and until today I never even heard about Sky =( I hope viewing GoT won’t get too complecated…

  73. MyBaD702
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t it all come down to money? HBO gets their money through the distribution. Sky was able to pay the most so it benefits HBO more. How do Sky subscribers affect anything about HBO? HBO gets most of their money through subscriptions so they should only care about the ratings that are based directly on their subscriptions. Sky buying the distribution deal is all the money HBO will make from the UK…no matter the ratings there.

    Sounds to me like this is the best move for HBO and the show in general.

    And please let me know if I’m wrong, because I very well be.

  74. Samantha Hirst
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    OzXaro,

    I hear you, and I know how you feel; I gush about TV shows and people just look at me blankly, or get really excited until I mention it’s Sky and then don’t wanna know because they don’t have it. I just think that we Brits (myself included when the Beeb were co-financers) expected it on terrestrial TV, and this reaction is somewhat of a toddler tantrum now we’re expected to have to pay for it, something that other countries took as a given and are just grateful they’re getting it at all.

    Yes, it is going to lose ‘official’ viewers. Yes, people are going to resort to less than official/illegal means to watch it if they can’t/won’t buy Sky; but posts in here are making it sound like the end of the world. Woe is Me and the End is Nigh and all that.

  75. Adam Whitehead
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    People are being way too generous about Sky’s audience figures.

    Sky has around 9.5 million subscribers. There’s between 30 and 40 million households in the UK, so that is between 25 and 33% of the potential audience. Hurrah! That’s not so bad, right?

    Not so much. A lot of people have Sky for the movies or music channels or for the sports and never watch drama on it, mainly due to moaning about the ad breaks. Despite that potential 10 million viewers, high-profile shows on Sky struggle to get more than 1 million. LOST started off with 1.2 millon on Sky but by the end of the series was pulling in half that. BSG, as I mentioned earlier, was only doing about 300,000 per episode. THE PACIFIC was broadcast on Sky Premier Movies and got about half a million viewers as well after a massive ad campaign.

    Contrast that to DOCTOR WHO, which gets 7-8 million per episode on average (and its highest-rated episodes were getting 10-11 million a few years back) on the BBC. Dramas airing later at night, say around 9pm, get less, but still around 4-5 million.

    As a result, this news means that THRONES will be getting around 10%, maybe less, of the potential audience it could have reached on the BBC. This is disappointing for us British fans hoping and expecting this would be a major, water-cooler show in the UK with RADIO TIMES covers (our equivalent of TV GUIDE) and lots of coverage. Instead it’s going to be niche. A great shame.

    Didn’t the BBC edit Rome pretty severely?

    Yes. They edited the first three episodes into two, focusing on the blood and sex scenes. It turned the prospective UK audience right off and the show got slaughtered in the UK press as a result. The BBC killed it before it got a chance to get going, after they’d sunk over $30 million into the first two seasons. As a result, in the UK if you talk about ROME being one of the best shows of the last decade (as I think the critical consensus in the US indicates) people will look at you as if you are mad, unless they happen to be among the few who picked up the show on DVD and saw it how it was supposed to be.

  76. Caedes
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    When it comes to spain, I’m pretty sure it will be Canal+, the premium cable tv around here, who will be buying the rights. I even wrote to them asking for info about it, but the only answer I’ve got is “this query will be sent to our programming staff”.
    As an long time subscriber of Canal+, I think it will be atrocious if any other channel got it. Mainstream tv here on Spain is almost unwatchable, with lots of realities and gossip shows.

  77. GaR
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Being based in New Zealand, I’ll count myself lucky if it airs on Sky anywhere near the US air date. If it doesn’t, and it’s not available online on a reasonable timeframe at a reasonable price, then meh. I’ll download it.

    These media companies really need to realise that the internet is a great way for people to get TV shows. If they had a legit online release, then people like myself wouldn’t need to go looking for torrents, and they’d make a bit more coin.

  78. dizzy_34
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    So if this was still going to be on BBC, would it air around the same dates as it would in the US?

  79. Gregory Kelton
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Adam Whitehead,

    This analysis is all well and good, but how is it any different than American viewership numbers in regards to network TV versus HBO shows? I don’t know the numbers, but I would imagine that they are similar, in that HBO shows just won’t pull in the same number of viewers as network TV shows because of the subscription fees.

    If we’re talking about what is good for the Brits, then obviously a show that is free is better than a show that is not, but if we’re talking about what is best for HBO (and thus GoT) then isn’t this move best? They lose a bit of funding from the BBC, but they pick up money from Sky for the rights to their shows. In return, they don’t have to worry about funding vanishing if the BBC doesn’t like the ratings, they have more control over the future of the show. As others have pointed out, the number of viewers on Sky will be Sky’s problem, not HBO/GoT’s.

  80. HouseUmber
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Maybe HBO should consider a subscrpition website, watch any episode of their shows anytime, online.

  81. OzXaro
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Gregory Kelton,

    One distinction that comes to mind is that HBO has a very positive reputation. They are known for producing quality television and their subscribers are of a much more reliable nature than those of Sky. Sky has a reputation for buying whatever will make them money, regardless of quality. Their subscribers are an extremely mixed bag, unreliable and fickle.

  82. Maxwell James
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Adam Whitehead,

    Good points. And I’m definitely sympathetic to Brit fans here – especially with the show being produced there and mostly featuring UK talent, it seems rather unfair that it shouldn’t be more widely seen.

    For that reason, I’m not sure whether or not this is good for the show. Obviously the decision was made to benefit HBO in its entirety, not this one show (although given the size & location of the production I’m sure it must have figured into the discussion). Since HBO apparently calculated that a viewership of 500,000 on Sky is more valuable than a viewership of 4 million on BBC, that probably does increase the total budget for the show by some amount. And it also probably reduces the risk of clashing incentives that have been a problem between HBO and BBC.

    At the same time, it seems to me that Thrones is a product that a great number UK residents would want to buy, so to speak, and that this significantly increases the price of it for them. While not by a British author, the books are very popular there. The story draws very heavily on history and myths specific to the region. The production is being filmed there (and currently being lauded for its effects in an ailing economy).

    To get a little wonky with this, let’s look at a similar product. In its initial box office run Fellowship of the Ring made a little over $1 per capita in the US ($314 million), and a little over £1 per capita in the UK (£65 million). Taking exchange rates into account, that’s about 50% more in the UK per potential customer. While there are certainly major differences between the Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, that suggests to me there’s a reasonable case to be made that sword-and-sorcery fantasy epics are an easier sell across the pond.

  83. Adam Whitehead
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    This analysis is all well and good, but how is it any different than American viewership numbers in regards to network TV versus HBO shows? I don’t know the numbers, but I would imagine that they are similar, in that HBO shows just won’t pull in the same number of viewers as network TV shows because of the subscription fees.

    That’s true, and GoT will stay on-air with correspondingly fewer ratings, just like HBO in America (where TREME would have been cancelled on a major network before Episode 3 with the ratings it was getting on HBO, not being renewed). I have no concern about the show being cancelled early by Sky and it does not affect the show being renewed in the USA (aside from HBO looking at their worldwide DVD sales, and UK DVD sales will be driven by UK viewing figures).

    My regret was simply that in the UK THRONES will now be a niche, relatively little-watched show with no chance of becoming a mainstream, break-out success as was possible on the BBC or ITV or even Channel 4.

  84. Winter Is Coming
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Also, to those who are worried this show will become too niche now, and are pointing to shows like Lost as proof, I think might be under-estimating the buzz a little. Of course, I don’t live over in the UK but my general sense is that Thrones already has a pretty good amount of buzz going over there.

    Since this is a show being shot in NI with primarily UK actors I think that factor alone could give it higher ratings than the mostly US-based Lost. Actors such as Bean, Gillen and Glen are arguably more well-known in the UK than the US. Already there have been features on the show in the BBC News, The Guardian, etc. If Sky markets it well, which it sounds like is something they are good at, it could be a big hit for them and a way to make back a nice return on their investment.

  85. Sarah
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that’s a lot of ranting there in places. I think some people are forgetting that Sky 1 (the channel which it will more than likely been shown on) is readily available on Virgin, BT and the top up channels for Freeview, not to mention the fact that a lot of American shows are shown on Channel 4 or 5 after they have been on Sky and had plenty of viewers. It’s all well and good quoting numbers of Sky subscribers (which I am one of – yeay for me!) but there are a lot of other people out there who will be able to watch it via one of the other means, not to mention the fact that more people are taking up Sky so that they can get HD channels (Sky has the biggest selection). It’s really not that much of a big deal unless you refuse to subscribe.

    FYI – for the Americans/anyone else interested; basic Sky subscription is £15 per month, then an additional £1 for every ‘package’ of channels (which gives you about 20-30 channels in each package). The receiver box is £50 for a basic, up to £150 for HD – but they usually have an offer on and give the basic one away for free, with free installation. So not really hugely expensive.

  86. Lex
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Does the network that eventually airs the show REALLY make that much of a difference in whether or not the show becomes a hit? I guess so, which is a shame…

    Oh well. Clearly, people in the UK are going to need to learn how to download torrents (if they don’t already know how). That way, they can watch each episode of Game of Thrones within 24 hours of when it airs in the U.S.

    If downloading makes you feel guilty, then just buy the eventual DVD release. That’s what I’ll probably do.

  87. Coltaine777
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like the Brits would be in favor of casting Rupert Murdoch as Lord Walder Frey…seems like he’d be a natural :)

  88. Kelsey Catherine Schmitz
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Adam Whitehead,

    Thanks for this write up, I think it clarified this whole argument for me.

    In Canada, I have to pay for cable or sat. and then extra for HBO Canada. I currently do not have it, though my folks do, so I watch my stories there.
    While the Sky thing is clearly an issue for most of you Brits, I would have been just as annoyed with it had the BBC done it and screwed it up.
    Is there no happy medium?

  89. Kelsey Catherine Schmitz
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    GaR,

    Stinkin American networks have online access to episodes for free the next day, but you have to be in the states to watch them.
    Its how my brother and his wife see shows, they don’t pay for cable!

    Also, weird question, any idea how hard it is to emigrate to NZ? lol

  90. dizzy_34
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Lex: Does the network that eventually airs the show REALLY make that much of a difference in whether or not the show becomes a hit? I guess so, which is a shame…Oh well. Clearly, people in the UK are going to need to learn how to download torrents (if they don’t already know how). That way, they can watch each episode of Game of Thrones within 24 hours of when it airs in the U.S.If downloading makes you feel guilty, then just buy the eventual DVD release. That’s what I’ll probably do.  Quote  Reply

    or get a slingbox and an American friend with HBO.

  91. Coltaine777
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    For all you Canadians wondering about HBO cost …it’s roughly 20$ extra per month …but you also get extra movie channels with that…to me that seems reasonable….I’m Rogers cable customer but I believe Bell is the same

  92. Wastrel
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming: Also, to those who are worried this show will become too niche now, and are pointing to shows like Lost as proof, I think might be under-estimating the buzz a little. Of course, I don’t live over in the UK but my general sense is that Thrones already has a pretty good amount of buzz going over there.
    Since this is a show being shot in NI with primarily UK actors I think that factor alone could give it higher ratings than the mostly US-based Lost. Actors such as Bean, Gillen and Glen are arguably more well-known in the UK than the US. Already there have been features on the show in the BBC News, The Guardian, etc. If Sky markets it well, which it sounds like is something they are good at, it could be a big hit for them and a way to make back a nice return on their investment.    

    There are no big hits for Sky. People only know Gillen from the Wire and don’t know Glen. There is no buzz – the only people I know who have heard of it are those I’ve told about it. An off-hand mention in an online column of one of the Guardian? Well, two or three people will have read that. An article on the BBC website (among two hundred others every day) about revitalising the NI economy with big TV productions? Nobody. Bean is a draw, it’s true, but hardly massive.

    For most people, this series will be a billboard or two that they ignore. And then, if it’s massively critically adored and successful, then eventually by season 3 or 4, the more critic-conscious people might have started to hear its name.

    And yes, this DOES affect HBO. Take ‘The Wire’. It got, at max, 70,000 viewers on satellite. Then the BBC reran it in the most frustrating way possible – one episode every night, 11pm (times changing slightly each night), hardly any adverts for it, no repeats, no omnibus editions, no availability on the internet. The result? 600,000 stayed with it to the end, and I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands saw a goodly chunk before missing an episode and having to drop out (the Wire not being a missed-episode-friendly series). And the result of THAT? Well, massive DVD sales, of course. Because people started to see it and hear about it.

    And this isn’t just with GOT. It’ll be with EVERY HBO series from now on. the market for HBO DVDs in the UK should grow; instead, it’s going to shrink.

    So, I think that HBO have taken a short-sighted decision for money up front rather than long-term growth.

  93. GaR
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Kelsey Catherine Schmitz,

    Yeah, being outside the US usually means that torrents are the best way to get content. Until the networks sort out their stone age international distribution policies, that ain’t changing.

    NZ’s immigration policies are all over the show. If you can secure a job here first, it’s supposed to be a lot easier, but the immigration goons can be really arbitrary about it. A qualified, experienced engineer with a job already secured with a major power company can still find it really hard to get in, even though a less qualified person may breeze through (relatively speaking). This is all anecdotal, of course :P

  94. tek
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Charles Dance is Tywin!

  95. Wastrel
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Wastrel,

    Oh, and on the narrow point about Murdoch: yes, all companies involve giving money to people you disapprove of… but not necessarily people who are an active threat to you and your family. That’s how many people think about Murdoch. He’s not just some lazy pervert somewhere in the Midwest we might not like too much, he’s a politically active, politically totalitarian oligarch who is fighting for the soul and sovereignty of the UK, and to a lesser extent the entire world.

    Think of how some Republicans think about Obama’s healthcare plans. Now imagine that Obama controls all the media and owns HBO, and that the money given to HBO is directly financing his stalinist death chambers (or whatever it is he’s meant to be in favour of, I can’t remember the details). Would you really expect hardcore Republicans to pay for HBO in those circumstances?

  96. Alex Webster
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    All the talk of maximising viewing figures and making comparisons to shows like Merlin and Robin Hood are missing the point IMO.
    This is a show with graphic scenes of sex and violence with liberal use of swearwords to boot. It is not going to reach a mainstream audience – just as the books haven’t hit the stratospheric sales figures of Harry Potter or Twilight.

  97. SJGIM
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I am sorry to all of the UK viewers who have problems, either ethical or financial, with purchasing or viewing sky. As a college student living in dorms, I don’t have access to HBO channels or alot of money. I do, however, have a friend that has an apartment. I am currently trying to generate enough interest with her and her friends in HBO series in general that a group of us will pitch in for the installation and be able to watch any shows we want, as we all have different interests and hang out a lot at her place anyway. If the problem is financial I would suggest either doing this or finding a friend or a friend of a friend that you feel comfortable asking if you can come over, hang out, and watch thrones with (it helps if you can get them hooked on the books and then bond over the series).
    If the problem is ethical/political in nature, the only real options I can see are waiting for it to be sold or finding a friend and getting them to watch. I personally don’t see how you can claim to have an ethical objection to paying for sky and NOT have an ethical objection to stealing from all of the people that have put their time and effort into making GOT possible, from the beloved actors to the unseen crew (ie pirating/watching GOT illegally).

    Again, I am sorry this causes inconvenience to UK watchers, and that less hype will be found there because of it.

  98. Kelsey Catherine Schmitz
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    GaR,

    I’d heard rumours that someone with a Canadian teaching ceritfication and higher ed. could navigate those waters a little easier.
    Surprisingly, curriculum in NZ and Ontario are pretty similar. Just thought it might be a nice way to see someplace else for a while, without getting sucked into the teach english in asia vaccum of despair. haha

  99. Brude
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Mo Ryan reporting that Charles Dance has been cast as Tywinn:

    Yay!!

  100. Mormegil
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Charles Dance, fantastic.

    The other thing about Sky is afaik they stick to their schedule of an hour or half hour per program pretty strickly. Fine for a US import of 42 mins but HBO shows are longer than that I believe.

    I remember Channel 4 usually giving an hour and five mins to show The Sopranos, not sure if Sky will be that flexible which means there will be cuts (same as BBC hour long programs being cut when shown on US networks).

  101. tysnow
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Think positive about the Sky deal, perhaps HBO wants that extra $300 mil to make Thrones more lavish.

  102. Lucy Richer
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    As much as he’s a fairly obvious choice, it really is a little crazy how many fan favourites have been cast. The two I was always most vocal about were Aidan Gillen for Littlefinger and Charles Dance for Tywin. To tell the truth, I find it a little creepy.

    That is, a little creepy, and very, very, amazingly, fantastically AWESOME.

  103. Alex Webster
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Mormegil,

    I would not be at all surprised if Sky showed all their HBO acquired content on their movie premiere channel. It would promote uptake of that particular package (Sky never missing an opportunity to suck more money from their subscribers) and differentiate their serious drama programming from the drivel that’s aired on Sky One, Two and Three.

  104. Alex Webster
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Brude,

    I think I just pee’d a little. PERFECT casting!

  105. Adam Whitehead
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    You know what’s better? Dance is a big fan of the books and has been actively keeping an eye on the project since it was announced. I also understand he was the first choice of a number of people for the role.

    Tywin is the sort of role that Dance could nail to the wall in his sleep, but the fact he’s read the books, knows Tywin’s character arc and so on all before filming starts means he should be able to bring more depth to the role.

  106. GaR
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Charles Dance! Great choice.

    Kelsey Catherine Schmitz,

    I wouldn’t be surprised. Teaching is one profession that is desperate for competent recruits. The pay rates are reasonable, though far from spectacular, or so I understand. If you can get a firm job offer, that’s a big tick in your favour, especially in an area like education.

  107. Mike
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Just…just, wow. Casting continues to be amazing. I thought I was as amped as I could be about this show, but as the cast keeps filling out, my anticipation heightens.

    How much longer till Spring 2011?

  108. Dolorous Edd
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Erm, forgive me for stating the obvious, but presumably that £150 million will end up being split over ALL of HBO’s show, not just GOT. How many shows would they normally produce in a 5 year period? A couple of dozen at least, surely.
    I’ve no idea how much money the BBC would’ve put in, but I think someone earlier said they invested £30 million into the two seasons of Rome? At £10-15 million a series the BBC (assuming Thrones goes for 5 seasons) could’ve potentially put £50 million + into making JUST Game of Thrones. There is no way this one show will now appropriate one third of the Sky payout.

  109. defaulted
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Most people in uk get some kind of sky channel in some form or another. For example, I get virgin and get sky 1,2 and 3. So viewings are a bit of a non issue really. However I’d rather not trust agot to Rupert ‘Google are Plagiarists’ Murdoch

  110. Lex
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Brude: Mo Ryan reporting that Charles Dance has been cast as Tywinn:Yay!!    

    YES! This was my last chance to check WIC before heading out for the day. I was hoping for some Tywin news. Woohoo!

    Yup, along with Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, and Aidan Gillen, this is just bloody awesome!

  111. Lex
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Also, finally a BLOND Lannister!

  112. simon mckay
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I have to add my voice to those who aren’t against the sky deal.
    It wont be edited, it wont be rescheduled for another event and given hbo’s buisness model a out pouring of insistence GoT be on the bbc would mean that got should be on a main stream network in the US. If it was left to free to air TV this series would be unlikely to get made or if it did it wouldn’t get made right.

  113. Damryn of Dorne
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Hahah awesome, I’ll always associate Dance as the bad ass Sawdi Numspah (sp?) in the Golden Child haha :D Can’t wait for 2011

  114. userj
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    What this all means is that UK viewers really need to get out and promote GoT through word of mouth. Invite your friends and family to GoT viewing parties. Gush about the shows to your coworkers, and when they look at you weird, link them to the bittorrent, and invite them to your next viewing party once they are hooked. Suggest to your local pub or coffeehouse that they should show GoT on the big screen when it’s on. If you can stomach the politics but the price would be too big for you, go together with some friends to get one Sky subscription across 3 households.

    Whatever you do, if you decide to bittorrent it, buy the DVD’s too!

  115. Alex Webster
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Interesting article about the Sky deal on BBC News:

  116. Crystal Sky
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    According to Financial Times, the deal is only worth 12m-15m pounds a year. So it doesn’t look like it’s going to enrich HBO as much as previously thought.

  117. Kelsey Catherine Schmitz
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    GaR,

    Thanks for the info! Much obliged!

  118. Mike B
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    To hell with it. I’ll just watch it online. Which is probably what I would have done anyway if there was a big gap between US and UK airings. I guess on the plus side the DVDs should be out sooner.

  119. Ace
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Jon Hunter,

    Jon, I understand your feelings and I have ZERO love for Murdoch. But you need to read up a bit on world politics – if you think Murdoch tries to interfere in just in England, you are sadly mistaken.

    In the USA (where myself and WiC are from) Murdoch owns a little thing called FOX NEWS which is basically the biggest propaganda machine for a conservative political party (here the Republicans) in the world. Do you know who Sarah Palin is? Yeah, Fox News promotes her like the second coming (she has her own show there). I guarantee you Fox News have much more power than Sky will ever have.

    And here is the tie-in to entertainment. Murdoch also owns companies like 20th CENTURY FOX who make most of the huge movie blockbusters that you, I, and like half the world pay big $$$ to watch. Again, the revenue from Sky is crumbs compared to that from 20th Century Fox.

    The point is, it is an unfortunate reality that powerful people like Murdoch, who have political agendas that may be detrimental, also own and produce much of the entertainment that you and I like. In fact, the money they generate from popular products like this is part of the source of their political power!

    This news about GoT and Sky is just a small example.

  120. Stephen Bosco
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I think the BBC would ruin it anyway. They are not daring enough and far too politically correct to product exciting gripping shows. They should just stick to family shows like Dr Who and Merlin…with their rather weak scripts.

  121. Christine
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    GaR,

    I’m from the US so this probably really doesn’t affect you, but HBO, through HBOgo (which is free with an HBO subscription) allows everyone who has it to watch the show online. The shows are normally up right after they finish airing on the HBO tv channel and can then be watched anytime, anywhere. A good amount of still airing shows are available on it but way more are available on HBO on-demand.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Brewer, Winter Is Coming. Winter Is Coming said: Blog post: Sky purchases rights to air HBO in UK http://winter-is-coming.net/2010/07/sky-purchases-rights-to-air-hbo-in-uk/ #GameofThrones [...]

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