Game of Thrones season 2 is still at least five months away so how could one possibly guess at the ratings numbers for a show that’s only been on the air for one season? Aside from the shows already confirmed successes, the series will have several things going for it this time around that almost no other show on television has. Sure the ratings are impressive and everyone involved with Game of Thrones, even on the periphery, is going to be as wealthy as a Lannister but let’s take a look at the factors that are driving these incredible numbers that I contend will only become more incredible in season 2.
It is Known, (It is Known)
The most obvious reason one might assume Game of Thrones will see a ratings bump in season two is the overall name recognition the series now commands. Much like the ongoing presidential election, the more familiar a viewer is with your product or candidate, the more likely they’ll be to tune in. Since the show’s premiere in April, the term ‘Game of Thrones’ has gone from minor obscurity (sorry WiC.net!) to a household name. As a fan of fantasy, science fiction and escapism in general you would have thought that A Song of Ice and Fire would have been something I’d be familiar with in my personal travels. But before 2010, I honestly can’t remember hearing of the series for whatever reason. But these days I spend about an hour per day on Seattle bus routes to and from work and every morning without fail I see someone cradling one of the giant tomes and countless more could be listening to the audiobooks in their ear buds (as I prefer to do). Now, this is far from a scientific poll of the general population but I can tell you that this surely was not the case as of last year.
Take a look at the official Game of Thrones Halloween album; do you remember anyone dressing up as Daenerys Targaryen before this show was on the air? Not that it wouldn’t have been an awesome costume in 2009 but surely it stands to reason that the show has pushed the boundaries of what we used to call a ‘fantasy fanatic’. The show is now being pumped by major news outlets, referenced on ubiquitous shows like SNL and The Daily Show and book stores feature the novels in the front window of their stores. Game of Thrones is slowly but surely catching the eyes and ears of the masses and a popularity tipping point is less than a season away.
Once You’re Hooked; You’re Hooked
The first chapter in any long-form work of fiction is almost always about getting to know the characters. Season one of the show focused a lot on the basic places, relationships and vocabulary of Westeros. By the end of that season you were firmly invested in at least a few of the characters and had a general sense of the world as a whole. That’s the hook! Once you’ve decided that you care about what happens to Tyrion Lannister or Robb Stark then is there any chance that you won’t watch season two (or read Clash of Kings!) to find out what’s going to happen next? Peter Dinklage won over so many hearts and minds he landed himself an Emmy for his portrayal of the sharp-tongued Imp. Millions of people will tune in to find out what becomes of him next spring. In this show, you never know who will live, die, get married, or betray their next of kin so the viewer really must tune in for answers. Look at a uber-successful show like Lost where many people kept watching because they had no idea what was going to happen next (and arguably neither did the show’s producers!) Fan’s mouths, new and old have been watering since the show wrapped it’s first season and very few are going to forgo a second helping. Many are taking up the quest of reading the 1000+page each novels which is surely the biggest hook of them all!
HBO has an Easy Sell in 2012
If you hadn’t heard of Game of Thrones before HBO’s promotional campaign last spring; you’ll have an even tougher time avoiding the push they’re sure to make in 2012. They’ve got a show with sex, action, intrigue, and fantasy elements rounded out with award winning acting, effects and production. All built on the foundation of a critically and popularly acclaimed series beloved by millions of people around the world. Game of Thrones Season 2 trailers and video will most likely start making their way to the web early next year and the hype machine will be firing on all cylinders.
HBO needs the show to succeed and the’ll most likely get their wish but not before one of the network’s biggest promotional pushes in its history. HBO needs a show like Sex and the City, The Sopranos or The Wire running at all times– a show that appeals to a large swath of people, a show that gets people talking and will sell incredibly well on DVD and Blu-Ray. Game of Thrones has the potential to be that and more if presented properly to it’s potential audience. And who knows more about proper presentation than HBO?
Comics, Games and Figurines
It comes as no surprise that a franchise such as A Song of Ice and Fire would try to capitalize on a fan’s desire to explore the world of Westeros outside of the show and novels. HBO looks like they’re going to get into merchandising in a big way and for better or worse (better in this blogger’s opinion!) we’re going to see a lot more of Westeros than someone reading GoT in 1996 could have ever imagined. With a pair of new video games, a sold out comic and several action figures on the way, any viewer who’s played with one of these items is much more likely to tune into subsequent new episodes of the show.
The magic of merchandising and licensing isn’t just the piles of money HBO, and George RR Martin will be making selling plastic– the magic of merchandising is that it actually stokes the flames of fan loyalty. And you’ll find that loyalty is a very contagious commodity; spreading from older brother to younger, wife to husband and friend to friend. When someone walks by your desk and asks what that little iron throne is all about, you’ll be sure to explain it to them. It also bodes well for the future of the show with the brand becoming more and more valuable with games, RPGs and other spin off products bringing in revenue.
Quality Content is King
There’s a mantra that promotion directors, bloggers and even Google live and die by and that is that ‘Quality Content is King’. In an age where phony marketing, hype and paid reviews are common, horrible content often makes its way onto our screens and quality content is sometimes left behind. But more and more viewers are empowering themselves with sites like Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes and by writing and reading reviews for themselves on Facebook and Amazon. Critics are nearly unanimous in their acclaim for Game of Thrones and if the reviews don’t convince you maybe the Emmys will. Game of Thrones is high budget, quality content that is leaps and bounds above anything that’s even been attempted in the same genre on television. With this being only the first of presumably several seasons it stands to reason that the show will only become better from here.
The Sopranos and Sex and the City weren’t just fan favorites that ‘caught on’ for one reason or another. They were quality programs with award winning staff behind and in front of the cameras. Game of Thrones is the next in a line of HBO programs that are of such quality that they cannot be ignored. Ratings for these two programs as well as True Blood have only gone up each season they’ve been on the air. Between program name recognition, merchandising and several ways to get hooked on the series we have no doubt that Game of Thrones will see a bump in viewership next spring.
What do you think? Will Game of Thrones season 2 rise to the occasion and shatter all ratings expectations or are people going to draft away from the series as we delve deeper into the world of Westeros? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!