The recent announcement that long-time HBO head Richard Plepler was leaving the company following word that the recent merger of AT&T and Time Warner meant some significant reorganization caused something of a stir. The rumors that Bob Greenblatt, formerly head of NBC, would come over to take over have panned out, with HBO and Turner now being folded into a new entity, WarnerMedia.
This has led to fans of Game of Thrones and HBO in general wondering what the future holds. Greenblatt has provided some interviews, and one in particular to The Wrap touches directly on the topic of the potential of a Game of Thrones franchise. The headline that goes with this might seem alarming—“New HBO Boss Bob Greenblatt Doesn’t Know if Doing 2 ‘Game of Thrones’ Spinoffs Is Feasible – Let Alone One”—but reading the actual quotes suggest that it’s overstating Greenblatt’s remarks.
Bearing in mind that Greenblatt has just jumped into things, the important part of his statement has to do with the idea that there’s a danger and difficulty in taking a popular show and then creating a follow-up or spin-off that sustains similar popularity. In Greenblatt’s own words:
“Because the last thing you want to do is roll out a spinoff or two and they’re not up to the standard of the original show and then you’ve just sort of failed miserably… But sure, it makes sense to try to sustain it if we can. You know, can you really do two spinoffs? I don’t know. I mean, I’m not even sure you can do one. You know, so I don’t know yet is the big, long boring answer and I wish I did.”
That seems more like refreshing honesty, and really it’s exactly in line with what Plepler and HBO’s continuing Head of Programming, Casey Bloys, have previously indicated. They have entertained the possibility that none of the five proposals they received for shows would seem sufficiently interesting for them to pursue, and then they’d commission more and continue to explore the idea of a spin-off rather than settling for anything less than complete and total belief in a particular spin-off. Even now, the soon-to-be-in-production spin-off headed by Jane Goldman—set to start filming this summer—is at the pilot stage and has not yet received an order. It’s entirely possible that HBO will decide to pass and pursue something else, or even ultimately decide that there’s simply no way anything they create can live up to Game of Thrones in terms of global reach or popularity.
But an important point to bear in mind is that while no one can be sure that Game of Thrones can sustain successful follow-ups, we know that the new heads of the merged AT&T - Time Warner are very keen on greatly expanding HBO’s content production, and it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be significant investment made in exploring a Game of Thrones successor or two or three. If anything, the tension between Stankey’s remarks last year and Greenblatt’s cautious consideration now bodes well for HBO not rushing a decision; if they go forward with a show, it looks like it’ll be one they feel strongly about in terms of its potential popularity.