HBO has had a good thing going with Game of Thrones for nearly a decade at this point. The show has amassed a rabid following of fans over the years, and the ratings continued to rise in the latest season. Unfortunately for the network, only one season of Thrones is left before the finale that could very well kill off a whole bunch of characters. A number of Game of Thrones spinoffs are in the works to continue the world of Westeros after the big finale, but HBO is reportedly concerned about the price tag attached to any Game of Thrones-connected series. HBO drama chief Francesca Orsi had this to say about the spinoffs:
There is a conundrum if we do take off on one of these Game of Thrones spin-offs, where do we start? We can't obviously start with the budget of Season 8, but would it be a Game of Thrones Season 3 budget?
Game of Thrones has gotten very pricy over the years as the battles have increased in scale, the special effects have gotten more complex, and the salaries for the stars have skyrocketed. Given that Game of Thrones is arguably the biggest show on television since its premiere, the crazy high costs for the last few seasons undoubtedly felt justified at HBO. After all, the cinematic quality of the series can't come cheap. The question Francesca Orsi and others are evidently facing is how much the spinoffs are worth right off the bat.
As much as being attached to Game of Thrones practically guarantees that the spinoff(s) will be a hit, there's no way for HBO to gauge how much profit can be made off of a new project. An audience will undoubtedly tune in to get more material out of the Game of Thrones universe, especially if Thrones has been off the air for a few years and fans are in withdrawal, but a spinoff may not be able to hit and sustain the same kind of ratings as its parent show. Fear the Walking Dead on AMC hasn't exactly become the same kind of juggernaut as The Walking Dead.
Francesca Orsi went on in her appearance at the INTV conference (via Deadline) to explain how Game of Thrones wouldn't have come to the small screen in 2018 the way it did back in 2011, saying this:
If that were today, the books would probably come in packaged with a director and we'd be held ransom for a full season order or probably two seasons and the problem with that is to get it right we really did have to go through the development process.
HBO may have been on the hook for a lot more than just the first season of Thrones if the show was pitched a few years later, and I have to wonder if Thrones would have ever made it to television if HBO had been required to either make a major commitment or pass on the project. While it's difficult to imagine now that Game of Thrones would have been a flop, big-budget fantasy TV series really weren't done back in 2011, and Thrones may have been a bit of a gamble early on. Negotiation may be more complicated for the spinoffs now that the Thrones franchise is so huge, but we'll have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, Game of Thrones won't return for its final season until 2019. For what you can watch in the meantime, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide, our 2018 Netflix premiere schedule, and our 2018 Amazon Prime rundown. Don't forget to check out our picks for Game of Thrones spinoffs that need to happen.