When House of the DragonHBO’s big budget prequel for Game of Thronespremiering Sunday night, it’s not just the future of the Targaryen family at stake.
For HBO parent Warner Bros. Discovery, how? House of the Dragon countries with audiences, in the US and worldwide, could determine the studio’s willingness to commit to the World of Westeros universe.
“It’s a big responsibility to take on,” said Ryan J. Condal, showrunner and co-creator, along with George RR Martin, of House of the Dragon. “Because I feel that the success of this show will determine how deep the exploration of this universe goes. I think there is a lot of interest to see other corners of this world [but] I think that will all depend a lot on House of the Dragon does what it has to do commercially for HBO.”
Warners has made it clear that there is no problem with abandoning projects if they do not meet the company’s performance standards. Since its merger with Discovery in April, the group has taken an $825 million write-down on content, causing such projects to chop JJ Abrams’ sci-fi drama. demi-monde and the already completed $90 million superhero feature batgirlwhich would launch on HBO Max, in a bid to find $3 billion in cost savings.
After the studio is canned batgirlsaid David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, that it was developing a new 10-year plan for projects in its DC universe. But no word has yet come on what Warners plans to do with Westeros after theHouse of the Dragon.
HBO initially put five pilot projects in development, and even shot one – blood moon starring Naomi Watts, thousands of years before the events of the original Game of Thrones — before he finally puts on all his chips House of the Dragon. The series, which was shot before the Warner-Discovery merger, is set up as a standalone series: “We weren’t consciously trying to launch the new Westeros universe, we didn’t seed anything in this show for other series,” notes . House of the Dragon executive producer Sara Hess – but its execution could ultimately determine whether Warners gives multiple green-lights GOT spin-offs, or whether the studio’s fantasy ends here.
“As a fan, I think the [World of Westeros] universe is as rich as the Marvel universe or the Star Wars universe, I think there are still plenty of stories to tell,” said Condal. “But we’re just at the beginning, as Marvel and Star Wars have built decades of content and characters over time. Our job is to spark that interest and explore the world a little bit more and get people intrigued to ask, ‘Where else can you go in this world?’”
The question is: what would success look like for? House of the Dragon? The first episode of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in 2011 to an audience of 2.2 million in the US. By 2019 and the show’s season eight finale, viewership had grown to nearly 20 million. Few expect House of the Dragon to start so high, especially given the mixed audience and the critical reactions to GOTthe last season. The series hopes to start somewhere in the 6 to 10 million range, roughly where Game of Throne was halfway through.
But if there is a future for House of the Dragon and the wider world of Westeros, the show must be out the door. This is all the more important because, unlike Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will be rolled out worldwide simultaneously with the US release. HBO and HBO Max will premiere the series in 61 countries within 24 hours of the US bow, while HBO GO serves an additional seven markets in Asia. HBO’s international broadcast partners, including Sky in the UK, Italy and Germany, Crave in Canada, OCS in France, Binge/Foxtel in Australia, U-Next in Japan and Waave in Korea, also go day in and day out with House of the Dragon and will fly or fall together.
Condal says he doesn’t know “exactly what metrics” HBO uses to assess success for House of the Dragon, noting that with the show airing both on linear TV and streaming, the numbers could be a combination of “viewership plus Netflix-esque metrics like minutes watched.” In any case, when? House of the Dragon premieres on Sunday, it’s out of his hands.
“[Co-showrunner] Miguel Sapochnik and I have talked about this from the beginning. We’ve said we can’t make this show defensive, we can’t guess what the studio wants us to be or what fans want in three years,” he says. “Things at HBO, at Warner, at Discovery are moving so fast. change it, we can only hold on to our idea. We have a creative vision and we’re going to execute it. This is a new show that’s set in Westeros, but it has to stand on its own. Then we’ll see what happens.”