These 16 shows, a recent Fast Company headline breathlessly told us, are dying to be the next Game of Thrones.
It was a roundup of titles that include many of the ones you’d expect on such a list. Netflix’s upcoming series based on The Chronicles of Narnia. Amazon’s much-touted Lord of the Rings series as well as its planned The Wheel of Time series. Heck, HBO no doubt thinks it’s also in the running to land a title that can claim the mantle of the next GoT, given that it’s working on several GoT prequels. Maybe the Star Wars series coming to Disney’s upcoming streaming service will also have a bit of that same cachet.
What’s just as likely, though, is that none of these titles or any others on the air now or on the way will come close to replicating the fandom around the mythology of Westeros and its warring kingdoms. While streaming services like Netflix and Amazon especially are handing the equivalent of blank checks to content creators who those services hope can develop a blockbuster tentpole franchise, at least one commentator has argued — their ambitions will likely amount to little more than a pipe dream.
The fact of the matter, according to this CNN Business report, is that when Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in 2011 it had far less competition than it would have faced today, given that streaming services weren’t near as popular yet.
“You’re trying to break through the clutter of 500 shows with one great show,” Michael Nathanson, media analyst and founding partner at MoffettNathanson told the outlet about the current TV industry.
The implication is that the TV landscape was as favorable as it could possibly be back then for something as ambitious as GoT, which used George R.R. Martin’s epic storytelling and a lavish production budget to rack up 47 Emmys and massive ratings — some 16.1 million viewers having watched the finale from last season.
No wonder, the CNN piece continues, “Amazon is bringing Lord of the Rings to the small screen for a reported price tag that could reach $500 million. One of Disney’s big bets for its new streaming service is a Star Wars series, which has a reported budget of roughly $100 million for 10 episodes. Both of those franchises have made billions at the box office, but the jury is still out on whether they can find that level of success on TV.”
Jill Rosengard Hill, an executive vice president at research-based media firm Magid, told CNN Business the future of subscription TV is probably a mix of quantity and as well as the hunt for quality that includes breakout hits.
Everyone is trying. CBS’ streaming service All Access is hoping for a hit with its Twilight Zone reboot from director Jordan Peele, and maybe via its Star Trek series that has Patrick Stewart back as Captain Picard. Continues CNN Business, “And HBO is future-proofing for its life after Thrones with its adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which is one of the most critically praised graphic novels ever. The cable network is also hoping to stay in the Game of Thrones business after the show ends with a prequel based on the series.”
Vanity Fair TV critic Sonia Saraiya told CNN that HBO’s Watchmen, given that it’s also got Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof’s involvement, may have the best shot at being that next blockbuster series. “My guess is that what makes something be the next Game of Thrones is something that really goes in a totally different direction,” Saraiya said. “Like something that isn’t trying to recreate that success, but something that is going for a very clear and unique vision.”
The race is certainly on, and the stakes are potentially enormous. To borrow a phrase from Cersei Lannister, when you play the game of trying to find the next Game of Thrones, you win or you die — ok, you don’t die, but the ratings definitely suck for the losers.