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The Lord of the Rings saga tells one of the most legendary fantasy stories of all time, and both the original books and the film trilogy have been hugely successful. Amazon made big news earlier in November when it was announced that a Lord of the Rings TV series is in the works, as Amazon isn't exactly a platform known for grand fantasy stories. The current home of large-scale fantasy on television has to be HBO with Game of Thrones. As it happens, HBO was not interested in bidding on a Lord of the Rings adaptation, and CEO Richard Plepler explained why:
I'd rather own our IP 100%... and I'd rather have the ability to work with a product that is inextricably linked to our brand.
HBO evidently prefers to stick with their own intellectual properties that everybody will immediately associate with their brand rather than properties that will automatically be associated with other platforms. Lord of the Rings has famously been adapted, and stars of the trilogy have already been asked for their thoughts on a TV adaptation. In contrast, there was no previous Game of Thrones series or film. When many of us think Game of Thrones, we think HBO.
Richard Plepler went on at the Business Insider Ignition 2017 media conference (via Variety) to note that HBO isn't even close to being done with its current fantasy saga. Although Game of Thrones will come to an end after the end of the upcoming eighth season, HBO has no fewer than five separate Game of Thrones spinoffs in the works. The smash success of the original series all but guarantees that spinoffs will perform well, and the world of Westeros has plenty of potential for more stories, especially of the prequel variety. Who needs Lord of Rings when Game of Thrones is still going?
Of course, there's also the point that a Lord of the Rings TV adaptation would have a very high price tag. Even though Game of Thrones goes down as one of the most expensive TV shows of all time, Amazon is going to need to shell out a lot of dough for Lord of the Rings. Amazon reportedly paid an incredible $250 million for the global rights to the saga for five seasons and a potential spinoff. When taking other expenses such as set design and casting into account, it's entirely possible that Lord of the Rings could cost Amazon upward of $1 billion. Even if a Lord of the Rings show is a pretty solid bet as a way to attract viewers and new subscribers, it's a very expensive gamble.
It should definitely be interesting to see how Lord of the Rings is received by consumers. Game of Thrones is proof enough that small screen adaptations of fantasy series can be big successes, and Star Trek: Discovery proves that franchises can be revised and/or rebooted. We'll have to wait and see.
We may have to wait a while to get a look at Lord of the Rings on Amazon, as the series is still in development stages. Still, Amazon is going all-in, and we're already sure to get at least two seasons. One original movie star is openly against the series. For what you can watch while we wait for a visual journey back to Middle Earth, check out our 2018 midseason TV premiere schedule.