HBO is thirsty as hell for a “Game of Thrones” spinoff

Image: HBO/Helen Sloan
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“All good things must come to an end,” retiring NFL quarterbacks and doomed sci-fi characters are fond of saying. HBO is less willing to accept that adage—at least when it comes to its crown jewel, Game of Thrones.

Casey Bloys, HBO’s programming chief, told the Hollywood Reporter last week (Sept. 29) that the network is exploring options for a Game of Thrones spinoff after the show ends in 2018. Can you blame it? Thrones is the network’s most-watched show ever and has won more Emmys than any other primetime television show in history. And it has only grown in popularity since debuting in 2011. It’s clear that HBO doesn’t want this party to end.

“In a perfect world, Game of Thrones would keep going,” Bloys said, “and we wouldn’t have to deal with any of this!”

If the network does develop a spinoff, it won’t be with Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have said that their stay in the fictional world of Westeros is over when Thrones show ends. “I’m sure there will be other series set in Westeros,” Benioff said backstage at the Emmys last month. “But for us, this is it.”

This leaves the meticulously created and fan-beloved world created by George R. R. Martin up for grabs. “There are so many properties and areas to go to,” Bloys told the Hollywood Reporter, about a possible Thrones spinoff. ”For us, it’s about finding the right take with the right writer.”

HBO did the right thing by allowing the show to end when its creators think it’s run its course. A lesser network would force a wildly successful TV show like Thrones to overstay its welcome. But HBO has long valued the creative process, and wants to maintain its reputation as a network where artists can do their thing without overbearing executives telling them how (and for how long) to make their shows.

The end of Game of Thrones is not the death knell for HBO that some have forewarned. In fact, the network might have found a spiritual successor to Thrones in the hypnotic new series Westworld, which grossed 3.3 million viewers for its premiere (the most for an HBO premiere since the first season of True Detective in 2014, and about a million more than the debut of Thrones).

Still, that won’t stop the HBO from milking the popularity of Game of Thrones for all its worth. The sixth season’s finale was watched by 9 million people on TV (plus millions more on-demand and via streaming). That’s millions of people who’d be interested in a spinoff—and if you’re reading this story, you’re probably one of them.