House of the Dragon and Rings of Power coming soon: What’s at stake

Promotions for HBO MAX Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon (L) and Prime Video Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

HBO Max | Amazon

As the summer comes to a close, two expensive fantasy series filled with magic, sword fighting, and fantasy beasts will debut on rival streaming services.

While it seems Amazon Prime Video’s “Rings of Power” and Discovery of Warner Bros. “House of the Dragon” should be a parallel franchise, as they began within a few weeks of each other, the two series serving very different purposes to their respective studios.

The stakes can be higher on “House of the Dragon,” which will go first. It starts Sunday on HBO and the HBO Max streaming service, coming as newly minted CEO David Zaslav is looking for fat to shed.

Cost-cutting measures that have become the norm at the recently merged company include layoffs and the removal of content from HBO Max. When Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to save money, it’s also looking to consolidate its streaming services, something that will be costly and time consuming.

“House of the Dragon” tells the story of the Targaryen Civil War that took place some 200 years before the events depicted in “Game of Thrones.” It is based on the novel “Fire and Blood” by George RR Martin. Unlike Martin’s other books in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, this one features an omniscient narrator who chronicles history based on collected accounts of events. In some cases, these stories contradict each other and there are multiple versions of events.

Amazon Prime Video’s “The Rings of Power” premieres September 2. The series is based on the documentary in the spin-off to JRR Tolkien’s epic novel “The Lord of the Rings.” “The Rings of Power” focuses on the great events of the second age of Middle-earth, a time of peace broken by the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron. It takes place thousands of years before the start of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” which filmmaker Peter Jackson turned into a separate blockbuster trilogy earlier this century.

While both series have adult themes, Martin’s work is more adult-oriented, as it depicts acts of violence, nudity, and sexual assault. Although there are big battles in “Lord of the Rings”, previous installments are more suitable for younger audiences.

Both series will release new episodes weekly, a strategy that could turn them into must-see event TV shows and leave audiences talking and speculating about what’s to come.

You win, or you die

If “House of the Dragon,” with a reported budget of $15 million to $20 million per episode, doesn’t live up to expectations, the next phase of the Game of Thrones series could end quickly.

“I feel they have a lot to offer in the market,” said Dan Rayburn, a media and streaming analyst. “Amazon, they don’t try to impress investors, and when they do, it revolves around commerce.”

Of course, the opposite is also true. If the “Game of Thrones” prequel was a major hit, Warner Bros. Discovery could see this fledgling franchise becoming a much more important piece of pop-culture cultism.

“House of the Dragon” has a 78% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 177 reviews. For comparison, the first season of “Game of Thrones” released in 2011 had a “Fresh” rating of 90%. In fact, every season except the last had a scoring rate above 90%. Season eight generated a 55% rating.

There are no ratings for “The Rings of Power yet”. The original three “Lord of the Rings” movies all scored between 91% and 95%, while the “Hobbit” trilogy generated scores between 59% and 74% from critics.

The road continues

Unlike traditional indie streaming services, like HBO Max, Netflix, Disney + or Peacock, Amazon gets less attention than the subscriber metrics. The movies, TV series and documentaries it offers are an add-on to its e-commerce site and its cloud business.

“The longer you spend watching something on Amazon, the better the chances [you’re] Paul Hardart, director of entertainment, media and technology programs at NYU Stern School of Business. “to make money from 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 their platform. In addition to acquiring the rights to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” supplement in 2017 for an estimated $250 million, the company recently acquired MGM Studios for $8.5 billion, giving giving the studio access to James Bond, the Rocky series and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

It also partnered with media group Dungeons and Dragons 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 series based on the Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child and another about the character Jack Ryan by Tom Clancy.

Amazon Studios shared the first image of its upcoming untitled “Lord of the Rings” series on the streaming service on September 2, 2022.

Amazon Studios

Amazon has a 5 season plan for “Rings of Power”, a plan will swallow more than 1 billion dollars in production costs and can take almost a decade to complete. With this investment, it’s unlikely the company will deviate from the series, even if viewership is smaller than expected.

Of course, analysts and investors will likely never get viewership data from Amazon, Rayburn said. The company has always kept quiet about its streaming numbers, occasionally releasing figures for major movies or series, but hasn’t turned those numbers into revenue figures.

“We will never know if the Amazon chain will be successful,” he said. “They would never show up and give us metrics tied to revenue.”

On the other hand, Warner Bros. Discovery may also keep quiet about revenue data, but may be more willing to acknowledge viewership data, he said. The company will also have “no choice but to cancel the show if it doesn’t go well”, especially with [recent] pull back on content spending,” Rayburn said.

Of course, the fans will be the ultimate measure. Although fans criticized the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the series as a whole was loved, and its ratings were consistently the highest on HBO during its run.

“The Rings of Power” also had a huge audience. The six theatrical films tied to Tolkien’s novels have generated more than $5.8 billion at the global box office, and Amazon, which has become a bookseller, has seen a return of interest. for works by the author earlier this year. Even “The Silmarillion,” Tolkien’s esoteric, published after being handed down to Middle-earth, entered the Amazon top charts for the first time, signaling a spike in interest in the series.

If audiences rally to support these shows, whether critics like them or not, then both companies will look to expand their respective universes and offer more content and products in the future. .

This could also be good news for other streaming services that are experimenting with fantasy. Disney+ will premiere the “Willow” series, a sequel to the 1988 Ron Howard sword and magic film, in late November.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. Peacock and Rotten Tomatoes are owned by NBCUniversal.

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