Reports in the entertainment press have brought attention to remarks from HBO executives at the INTV Conference that have touched on Game of Thrones. Variety reports that Francesca Orsi—the HBO’s senior VP for Drama—promised that the final season of the show will be a satisfying climax, including the anecdote that cast members at the table read of the six scripts openly wept and that there were “15 or 20 minutes” of applause when the last page was read.
James Hibberd at EW corrected the record of her remarks slightly, indicating that the actors had had the scripts prior to the table read, but that some of them had opted to wait for the table read and so were very much “unspoiled” as the reading commenced.
Orsi also shared some substantial thoughts on the question of the Game of Thrones prequels currently under consideration by HBO. Given the focus on HBO’s increasing competition from Netflix, Amazon, and other vendors, the issue of HBO’s deep pockets possibly feeling a strain so as to be able to keep up seems to have been one particular topic of conversation. When it came to the Game of Thrones successor show(s), Orsi made the very good point that given the nature of television—production costs go up, not down, from year to year—it would be a challenge to have a successor show start its first season with a per-episode budget equal to the final Game of Thrones season, which is estimated to cost $15 million per episode. However, at the same time, HBO and viewers both would expect a successor show to look as good as that final season did, so there’s no way to roll back the clock and give a new show a budget more in line with the first Game of Thrones season, which was estimated to cost about $6 million an episode.
Our guess? Given trends among higher-end new shows, successor shows will likely start off nearer to $10 million an episode, and we suspect that HBO will be especially hard-nosed regarding negotiations with above-the-line talent (meaning actors, producers, writers, and directors) concerning their contracts and options.