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Data shows how dependent HBO has been on 'Game of Thrones' for survival

2 months ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Facts, Trends

These are the headlines when you search for "HBO" on Google News right now:

We could go on, but this horse is pretty well flogged. In short, dozens of journalists and perhaps thousands of viewers are buzzing about HBO ($NYSE:TWX) post "Game of Thrones". Some argue that there is little doubt the premium network will come up with another hit show to keep subscribers around. After all, this is the company that brought us "The Sopranos", "Six Feed Under", and "Sex and the City".

But others aren't so sure. HBO has a lot more competition these days when it comes to consumers' discretionary entertainment budget. When "The Sopranos" was in production, Netflix hadn't even launched as a simple DVD rental service. But now there are dozens of choices including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and with Disney Plus and Apple Plus coming to streaming boxes in the next year, it's fair to wonder about HBO's future.

One look at HBO's Facebook "Talking About" counts - the number of times the network was mentioned in users' updates and comments - since 2016, shows how dependent the network has been on "Game of Thrones" for its infusions of social media hype.

The largest spike of HBO-focused discussion occurred in the March of 2017 when HBO released teasers and info about "Game of Thrones'" 7th season, including a much-anticipated trailer. Two months later, another spike occurred after a new trailer for "Game of Thrones" collected 61 million views. In July of that same year, another spike occurred when — you guessed it — Season 7 of "Game of Thrones" hit the airwaves.

HBO didn't see another large spike in people talking about the network until January 2019. That happened when the network announced the return date of "Game of Thrones". 

So can HBO survive in a post-Westeros world? It's likely, assuming the network continues to push out great original content. Indeed, a talking-about spike in March 2019 occurred around the launch of a much-talked-about two-part documentary "Leaving Netherland" that attracted millions of viewers and a lawsuit from the Jackson Estate.

A show like "Game of Thrones" comes once a generation, and it's unlikely that HBO will ever see numbers like this again. That said, the network still has a much beloved lineup of extant shows like "Westworld", "True Detective", and "Big Little Lies". And with "The Watchmen", "Deadwood:The Movie", and "Chernobyl" all highly-acclaimed new shows already on the air or coming very soon, there are plenty of reasons for people to still be talking about HBO.

And if that doesn't work for HBO, it's already hedging its bets: a "Game of Thrones" prequel is on the way.

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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