Promos for HBO MAX Sport of Thrones: Home of the Dragon (L), and Prime Video Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Energy.
HBO Max | Amazon
As summer time involves an finish, two costly fantasy sequence stuffed with sorcery, sword fights and fantastical beasts will premiere on rival streaming providers.
Whereas it could look like Amazon Prime Video’s “The Rings of Energy” and Warner Bros. Discovery’s “Home of the Dragon” must be dueling franchises, as they start inside a pair weeks of one another, the 2 sequence serve very totally different functions for his or her respective studios.
The stakes could also be greater for “Home of the Dragon,” which is able to go first. It begins Sunday on HBO and streaming service HBO Max, arriving as newly minted CEO David Zaslav is in search of fats to trim.
Price-cutting measures have change into established order on the just lately merged firm together with layoffs and content material eliminations from HBO Max. As Warner Bros. Discovery seeks to save cash, it is also trying to consolidate its streaming providers, one thing that will likely be costly and time-consuming.
“Home of the Dragon” tells the story of the Targaryen civil struggle that occurred about 200 years earlier than the occasions portrayed in “Sport of Thrones.” It’s based mostly on George R.R. Martin’s novel “Fireplace and Blood.” Not like Martin’s different books within the “Track of Ice and Fireplace” sequence, this one options an omniscient narrator who paperwork the histories based mostly on collected accounts of occasions. In some circumstances, these tales contradict one another and there are a number of variations of occasions.
Amazon Prime Video’s “The Rings of Energy” arrives Sept. 2. The sequence relies on materials within the appendices of J.R.R. Tolkien’s monumental “The Lord of the Rings” novels. “The Rings of Energy” focuses on the key occasions of Center-earth’s second age, a time of peace that’s disrupted by the rise of the Darkish Lord Sauron. It takes place 1000’s of years earlier than the beginning of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” which filmmaker Peter Jackson was separate blockbuster trilogies earlier this century.
Whereas each sequence have mature themes, Martin’s work is extra focused at adults, because it portrays visceral acts of violence, nudity and sexual assault. Whereas there are giant battles in “The Lord of the Rings,” earlier iterations have been extra appropriate for youthful audiences.
Each sequence will drop new episodes weekly, a method that might flip them into must-watch occasion TV and hold audiences speaking and speculating about what’s to come back.
You win, otherwise you die
For Warner Bros. Discovery, the second entrant in its Sport of Thrones franchise has so much to show, and to reside as much as. The ultimate season of “Sport of Thrones” left a bitter style in lots of followers’ mouths, as showrunners wrote past the occasions within the materials created by writer Martin, who has but to complete the story in his books.
“There was this, this sort of cloud that descended on the unique [‘Game of Thrones,’]” mentioned Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse College and a popular culture professional. “Not everyone despised it, however actually there was a whole lot of the alternative of affection. To some extent as we go into all of those, you realize, subsequent chapters within the ‘Sport of Thrones’ tv world, there’s already that sense of a sort of compromise.”
On the time, HBO was owned by AT&T. Now, Discovery has merged with Warner Bros. and new homeowners have a brand new streaming technique. As the corporate quietly pulls reveals and movies from HBO Max, and has shelved already made projects, analysts and investors see an uncertain future.
If “House of the Dragon,” which cost a reported $15 million to $20 million per episode, doesn’t live up to expectations, the next phase of the Game of Thrones franchise could fizzle out quickly.
“I feel like they have more to prove in the market,” said Dan Rayburn, a streaming and media analyst. “Amazon, they’re not trying to impress investors and when they are, it’s around commerce.”
Of course, the opposite is also true. If the “Game of Thrones” prequel is a critical hit, Warner Bros. Discovery could see this fledgling franchise become a much more substantial part of the pop culture zeitgeist.
“House of the Dragon” holds an 85% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 345 reviews, as of Sunday morning. For comparison, the first season of “Game of Thrones” released in 2011 had a 90% “Fresh” rating. In fact, every season except the final season had a score above 90%. Season eight generated a 55% rating.
No rating has been assigned to “The Rings of Power,” yet. The three original “Lord of the Rings” films each scored between 91% and 95%, while the “Hobbit” trilogy generated scores between 59% and 74% from critics.
The road goes ever on
Unlike traditional standalone streaming services, like HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+ or Peacock, Amazon is less beholden than subscriber metrics. The movies, television series and documentaries it offers are a supplemental add-on to its e-commerce site and its cloud computing business.
“The longer you spend watching something on Amazon, the better chance [you’re] going to buy shampoo, toothpaste, a lawn mower, you know, and that’s ultimately their business,” said Paul Hardart, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at NYU Stern School of Business. “And so they’ve got several ways to make money off of you.”
Amazon’s strategy in recent years has been to focus on content that has a passionate built-in audience and will add value to its platform. In addition to snatching up the rights to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” supplemental material in 2017 for an estimated $250 million, the company recently bought MGM Studios for $8.5 billion, giving it access to James Bond, the Rocky franchise and “The Silence of the Lambs.”
It also partnered with Dungeons and Dragons media group Critical Role to create an animated series based on one of the group’s campaigns, and has created its own series based on “A League of Their Own,” one based on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels and another on Tom Clancy’s character Jack Ryan.
Amazon Studios shared its first image of its upcoming untitled “Lord of the Rings” series, due on its streaming service Sept. 2, 2022.
Amazon has a five-season plan for “The Rings of Power,” a plan that will swallow more than $1 billion in production costs and will take practically a decade to finish. With this funding, it’s unlikely that the corporate will deviate from the sequence, even when viewership is smaller-than-expected.
In fact, analysts and buyers will seemingly by no means get viewership information from Amazon, mentioned Rayburn. The corporate has at all times been quiet about its streaming numbers, doling out occasional figures for giant movies or sequence, however has not translated these numbers into income figures.
“We’re by no means going to know if the Amazon sequence is profitable,” he mentioned. “They’ll by no means come out and provides us metrics which are tied to income.”
Warner Bros. Discovery, alternatively, might also hold income information quiet, however could also be extra prepared to concede viewership information, he mentioned. The corporate may also “haven’t any selection” however to cancel the present if it would not carry out effectively, “particularly with the [recent] pullback of content material spend,” Rayburn mentioned.
In fact, the followers would be the ultimate metric. Although followers criticized the ultimate season of “Sport of Thrones,” the sequence as an entire continues to be beloved and its rankings had been persistently HBO’s highest throughout the time of its run.
“The Rings of Energy” additionally has an enormous baked-in viewers. The six theatrical movies tied to Tolkien’s novels generated greater than $5.8 billion on the international field workplace, and Amazon – which made its title as a bookseller, in spite of everything – noticed a resurgence in curiosity within the writer’s texts earlier this yr. Even “The Silmarillion,” Tolkien’s esoteric, posthumously revealed mythos of Center-earth, reached Amazon’s prime chart for the primary time ever, signaling a surge in curiosity forward of the sequence.
If audiences rally behind these reveals, whether or not critics like them or not, then each firms will search for methods to develop their respective universes and supply extra content material, and merchandise, sooner or later.
It is also excellent news for different streaming providers dabbling in fantasy. Disney+ will premiere its “Willow” sequence, a sequel to the 1988 sword-and-sorcery Ron Howard film, on the finish of November.
Disclosure: Comcast is the father or mother firm of NBCUniversal and CNBC. Peacock and Rotten Tomatoes is owned by NBCUniversal.