Will People Really Cancel HBO After ‘Game of Thrones’ Ends?

You know a network is in emergency mode when their most popular show is about to go off the air and viewers might overreact. While you can say HBO still has a few popular shows, no other series garnered the ratings Game of Thrones has over the last nine years. The show has already broken several viewership records, including 16.9 million viewers during the seventh season finale in 2017.

When GoT returned, viewership numbers were even larger at 17.4 million. These are ratings other shows on HBO never see.

Suits at HBO might be a little worried fans will cancel their accounts once GoT ends. As you might guess, the network does have plans to thwart a cable-watching exodus.

Should HBO worry more about people canceling?

One thing we’ve learned from major media companies is it’s easy to become set in their ways after sustained success for more than a decade.

We’ve recently seen Netflix brush off any concerns about upcoming competition from Apple TV+ and Disney Plus. While Netflix may be right they can compete on an equal playing field, a lot of viewers might have binge-watch fatigue and spend most of their streaming time at Disney instead.

With HBO, it’s a reverse situation of people thinking there won’t be anything worth watching once Games of Thrones ends. Recent polling evidence suggests 37% of HBO subscribers will probably drop the channel after the GoT finale in late May. This is a stunning percentage that could hurt HBO’s profits by year’s end.

As with Netflix, though, many subscribers may leave for a while and then return when a new series interests them. TV watchers and streamers no longer have to worry about cancellation fees if they choose to take a break and then return when they’re ready.

HBO has history on their side in viewers always coming back

Go back in time 12 years and you’ll recall when The Sopranos ending made everyone think HBO would never recover from viewers leaving in droves. Ultimately, subscribers did come back as new HBO shows emerged during the 2010s.

No one should assume all HBO watchers subscribe just for GoT either. Some may have short memories on the outstanding shows still going (albeit with long seasonal breaks) like Veep, True Detective, Big Little Lies, and the ever-popular Westworld. The latter alone is far more intellectual but brings in a sizeable audience when a new season arrives.

This still isn’t to say the above shows aren’t starting to age. HBO really does need to map out a strategy for creating new event programming everyone considers must-watch.

Whether this means the prequel to GoT will factor in is still a mystery.

We’ve learned spinoffs don’t always work

HBO has never tried a spinoff show before from one of their media properties. Reports are a GoT prequel will start filming next month with no set timetable on when it’ll air.

It’s always possible HBO will turn GoT into some kind of larger franchise opportunity, despite not being their usual style. A spinoff may not hit it off with viewers either considering it’s far removed from the main characters people love. With those current characters likely dying off, many fans may feel like it completes a storytelling arc.

Outside of these concerns, HBO does have plenty coming up this year and into the next. If you see the list, you’ll see there’s the potential of something becoming huge. With new leadership at the network, however, it could become a bigger risk tapping into the cable watcher zeitgeist.

We’ll see whether HBO’s emerging focus on real history dramas like Catherine the Great holds similar GoT intrigue.