As we head towards that fateful spot where the Game of Thrones show and A Song of Ice and Fire books meet, we begin to wonder just how many seasons of the series are left. Will the stated wishes of show runners David Benioff and DB Weiss mean that after this season we have just two more years (maybe enough time for George RR Martin to publish the sixth book. Winds of Winter)? Or could it get stretched out?
HBO says: "Stretch it out, please!" As they launch their standalone HBO Now service, intended to drive subscriptions from people interested in shows like Game of Thrones, they have gone on the record saying they would like about five more years of the show.
HBO's Programming President Michael Lombardo tells EW:
“We started this journey with David and Dan. It’s their vision. Would I love the show to go 10 years as both a fan and a network executive? Absolutely.”
Intriguingly that's the number they've been telling George RR Martin since day one... or day two, any way. Writing on his LiveJournal (seriously), Martin says:
I have known that since the very beginning... well, actually, since the day after the second episode of season one aired, when I had lunch with one of HBO's top execs, who told me, "We want this to run ten years." I allowed that ten years sounded fine to me. I continue to hear similar sentiments from HBO every time I have meeting with them, be it in LA or New York.
Seven is a nice number for a lot of reasons, including the fact that there are seven books (planned) and Westeros has seven gods for seven kingdoms. It just works! But ten... that's a helluva number, and it's a lot of Blu-ray box sets. It's about a hundred episodes, a wonderful amount of content to make future HBO Now subscriptions worth the price.
Will it happen? Martin is cautious about it, and I side with him - I think the show will run seven or eight seasons and that'll be it. Re-upping the actors alone will become difficult after a certain point; Kit Harington knows that they just can't finish the show without him, after all.
But what about ending it all as a movie? HBO says no way. Not a chance.
“Certainly there have been conversations where it’s been said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do that?’” Lombardo said. “But when you start a series with our subscribers, the promise is that for your HBO fee that we’re going to take you to the end of this. I feel that on some level [a movie would be] changing the rules: Now you have to pay $16 to see how your show ends.”
That makes a lot of sense. Remember, HBO is in the subscription business, not necessarily the ratings business. What's important is that people feel like they need to subscribe to the service in order to be in the loop on things like Game of Thrones, not whether they actually watch it. The buzz around the show is more powerful than the ratings of the show (both are strong, at any rate). HBO wants to keep Game of Thrones as an "only on HBO" kind of event.
My thoughts, though, run beyond the end of the series. Game of Thrones ends on HBO, but Westeros and Essos and all that history are still there. Martin has already written prequel stories set in the world of Westeros, and recently published an enormous guidebook to the history and geography of the world, a book just filled with hints at epic stories. Could Game of Thrones end but the world itself live on as a cinematic series? This next quote is Martin talking about ending the series as a movie, but I think it applies to the larger idea of bringing Westeros to movie screens in some other way:
What fantasist would not love the idea of going out with an epic hundred million feature film? And the recent success of the IMAX experience shows that the audience is there for such a movie. If we build it, they will come. But will we build it? I have no bloody idea.