I am a big fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones. I’ve read the five books, and I’ve watched from the beginning, live on Sunday nights (okay, I have relied on my DVR and On Demand occasionally). The subject matter might not appeal to all, but damn, you can’t argue with the story, the acting, the production values, the sheer epic nature and scope. It’s like putting out 10 feature length films in a single television season.
Last night, the author, George R.R. Martin, producers/creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, and a selection of the cast stopped by the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco for a gala press screening of the Season 3 premiere. Outside there were lords and ladies, dancers and jesters. Inside, at the after-party, there was food and drink named after elements of the show, costumes on display, a giant Iron Throne where you could have your picture taken. HBO doesn’t do anything small.
But then HBO knows it has something big on its hands. A worldwide cult phenomenon in the social media age. This became apparent in the question-and-answer period with the creators, who were well aware that they faced a crowd dominated by tech geeks (I say that affectionately), with ample representation from employees of Twitter.
The moderator at one point asked the producers: Could this groundswell of fandom have happened without social media, referencing the plethora of dedicated Twitter feeds and old-fashioned Websites that have sprung up over the years. The cynic in me thought, “Hold on a minute. Twitter is cool. Instagram, too. But let’s not forget that Roots, way back in the mid-1970s, when rotary phones were the only game in town, still holds the record for percentage of viewer penetration.”
But the optimist in me thought, “They’re on to something. Television is no longer about broadcast.” It’s about content, specifically about audiences interacting with the content. More content. Behind the scenes, real-time interaction, commentary. The producers told an anecdote about how they use the Twitter Global View and can watch live as they trend in Turkey. And the comments, the audience reaction to a scene or a storyline, takes place instantly. I don’t watch Twitter feeds while I’m immersed in a show, but a lot of people do.
It’s more than Twitter, though. George R.R. Martin, who looks as if he still writes on a Smith Corona, gave a plug to HBO Go from the stage, and if you haven’t checked it out, you should. It’s an interactive gateway to masses of rich content, and it’s there anytime you want it, not limited to a Friday night time slot.
HBO by no means has a lock on this type of exchange. I also watch college basketball, and when I can’t see my Indiana Hoosiers on TV, I go to espn.com and watch Gamecast and a live stream. You want to see interaction? College basketball fans are as manic and engaged as any Game of Thrones diehard.
Interaction takes place in so many Tumblr and Twitter feeds and on so many sites today, that you can start to see the future. In that future, the term “broadcast” will disappear. Heading in to the NAB Show, that seems like sacrilege, but it’s not when you step back and think about it. The foundations of television have been disrupted far more than the foundations of the music industry. But the television industry has adapted by making content and audience the bedrock of the future. More content, more background, more engagement. That’s great news for audio professionals, because even on the Web, you still have to hear every word.