HBO renewed True Blood for a seventh season today. Many thought with original showrunner Alan Ball departing last year that this would True Blood‘s final season, but that thinking was proved wrong today. This now makes True Blood HBO’s longest-running drama series in terms of seasons. No other HBO drama has officially eclipsed 6 seasons (although The Sopranos‘ 6th season was spread out over 2 years in 2 separate parts).
And why should we care about this? Well, for one, it means that HBO is happy with a show that brings in less viewers than Game of Thrones. (I had to get that jab in there!) But, more importantly, it means that HBO is not averse to long running dramas. Even pricey ones.
Now granted, True Blood is a smaller scale production than Game of Thrones. Every show on TV is, for that matter. But it’s not cheap. It has arguably bigger name stars who can demand a higher paycheck. The Sopranos cast got into a bit of a contract dispute between their 5th and 6th seasons, causing a two year delay between airings. It looks like HBO has managed to avoid any of that ugliness with True Blood. Some have questioned whether some of the Thrones cast may look for a pay raise once their original contracts are up and suggested that could end up derailing any hopes of seeing this story through to the end. Well, if HBO was able to navigate the tricky waters of contract negotiations with the stars of True Blood, I don’t see why they couldn’t with Game of Thrones.
The other thing Thrones has going for it is a fully mapped out story, with a beginning, middle, and (this is the important part) end. True Blood started with a pre-existing story framework, but went totally away from it, so at this point it’s anyone’s guess how it could end. Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have stated that they will continue to follow the main plotlines of the books and have already met up with author George R. R. Martin to find out how it all ends. So they know where they are going and can give HBO reassurances that this thing won’t go forever.
If anything, today’s news shows us that looking at HBO’s past tendencies is not a good model for predicting future actions. It’s a different time today, the landscape of TV and entertainment has changed dramatically, and HBO is also under different management. Management who have consistently shown a willingness to continue a show if the audience is there and there is story left to be told. So if a show like True Blood can get 7 seasons, why can’t Game of Thrones get the same… or even more?