Game of Thrones? More Like Game of "Pwned"

Game of Thrones is going to get "pwned."

There, I said it -- and fans of George R.R. Martin's long-winded and epically tardy fantasy series can flame away. The version of GoT envisioned by Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) HBO enjoys undeniable popularity with the sci-fi/fantasy set. Yet the series suffers from one fatal flaw: its creator.

Author Martin published his first volume in the Game of Thrones series some 17 years ago. It took him nine years to complete the next two volumes ... then five more years to complete the fourth (A Feast for Crows) ... and then six more years before the critically panned A Dance With Dragons finally lumbered out of its cave in 2011.

Supposedly, two more volumes are in the works, and Martin plans to wrap up the series with them. But if he maintains his current plodding -- and even decelerating -- pace, it could take another 13 years before the text version of this saga flaps its way to conclusion. Meanwhile, at age 64, Martin is already no spring chicken -- which puts into question whether the series will ever conclude.

This, unfortunately, leaves the fate of HBO's franchise up in the air. Depending on the deal it's worked out with Martin, it has perhaps two -- or, if it's lucky and Martin types quickly -- three years of programming left before the revenue stream dries up. News Corp. (NASDAQ: FOX  ) faces a similar dilemma, and in rather shorter order, as its HarperCollins subsidiary owns the distribution rights to the GoT books in the U.K. and Australia.

Longships on the horizon
Speaking of the U.K., there's an even more imminent threat to the GoT publishing/cable colossus, and it's already visible off the shores of Great Britain.

You see, capitalizing on the swords-and-sorcery success of GoT, the History Channel (owned by Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) /Hearst joint venture A&E) recently launched Vikings, a historical fantasy based on the exploits of certain Danish seafarers who terrorized Europe with their Middle Ages depredations.

Vikings became a huge success for A&E when it began airing in the U.S. in the month preceding GoT's Season 3 premiere on HBO. On Friday, Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) announced a deal in cooperation with MGM (NYSE: MGM  ) Television to bring the series to the U.K. and Germany via Amazon's local streaming subsidiary LOVEFiLM.

Result: Just as GoT begins winding down and going into hiatus next month -- and its fans begin going into withdrawal -- Amazon and MGM will move in to slake their thirst for ice and fire with an all-you-can-eat streamed offering of Vikings. Then, next year, Vikings will sail back in to take yet another ride on GoT's coattails.

Foolish final thought
It's at that point that things get really interesting for Time Warner, for News Corp. -- and for MGM, Disney, and Amazon as well. For the books Martin has written so far, next year's Season 4 will mark the penultimate. With only one more season certain to be produced, and with material written to support it, viewers will begin seeing the writing on the wall for long-in-the-tooth GoT.

At that point, viewers may realize that Vikings, not shackled to a lackadaisical author, and with several hundred years' worth of historical material to draw upon, has much more of a future ahead of it. The profits HBO & Co. have milked from GoT will begin to evaporate, just as the profits from A&E's franchise begin to roll in. (With the tide, of course.)

Then will the cry go forth: The king is dead! Long live the Jarl!

Glued to their spreadsheets, Wall Street's Wise Men may be clueless to all the above. But the 99% know what we're talking about. And just for you, The Motley Fool's has a new free report highlighting three other down-to-Earth stocks that the 1% may be overlooking. Just click here to read it now.


Read/Post Comments (30) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:06 PM, kitaro57 wrote:

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren't running GoT as 1 season = 1 book. The first 2 seasons of the show were based on books 1&2, however, season 3&4 are based on book 3 and likely season 5&6 will be for book 4. There is so much content in the books that they had to split it up into 2 seasons just to cover most of it. So, at the minimum there will be 4 more seasons not including the new books that aren't yet released. GoT has a lot of content and a large enough fan base to run for a long time.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:38 PM, marco34la wrote:

    Good grief! What a load of crap. No wonder the author lives in Indy and only has 160 followers!!!

    Comparing GoT to Vikings is like comparing

    a BMW to a VWJetta. Both are good cars, one is cheaply made though and it's obvious. I did enjoy Vikings on History Channel, despite the cheesy cgi and overwrought dialects. However, there were only NINE ...count them, 9 episodes in this first season... and no new episodes til next year!!!! At least with GoT we can count on 10 episodes per season... and take comfort in the fact that there's enough material from the books to last 10 more seasons. I have a feeling Vikings is going to grow old pretty quickly.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:41 PM, abrown750 wrote:

    Also Martin has already told the show producers how he plans on ending the series. So if something were to happen to him we still get the TV side of it. There is this thing called research, try it sometime.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:47 PM, user0987509875 wrote:

    As another poster said, the show's producers already know how the series will end (Martin was contractually bound to disclose this information, and he did). So if Martin died in a plane crash tomorrow, the series has got at least another 2 seasons left after season 4. Sorry to disappoint you.

    Also, all successful TV franchises attract imitators. GoT has an imitator in Vikings. But the show's audience will likely watch both shows, not choose one over the other.

    Sorry, try again?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:56 PM, r0derix wrote:

    Do people still say "pwned" ? Thought that died out in like 2006.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:58 PM, KMichelleT wrote:

    I'm disappointed that you would even think of comparing the two programs. I've enjoyed both, however it is very clear the thought, writing, and acting have excelled in all directions with the story line along Game of Thrones. Your comparison is almost laughable.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:00 AM, KMichelleT wrote:

    P.S. "Pwned" serves only to point out your lack of maturity.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:00 AM, rodddd wrote:

    one book doesn't = one season, this season is only gonna be half of the 3rd book. the series will last at least eight season so he has about five years to write the book.

    the worry about whether martin dies is valid, but anyone could die soooo... real GoT fans should not be worried

    btw Viking should be extremely flatter to be compared to this show...

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:04 AM, barbaraven wrote:

    I liked Vikings but was very irritated that nobody checked name pronunciation with a native speaker. Gunar is pronounced GOO nahr, not GUN er. Ragnar is pronounced RAHG nar, not RAG ner. I shant go on.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:32 AM, red1010 wrote:

    Sigh, it's sad that you went to William & Mary but never learned how to do simple research. If you took a second to focus on facts other than what competitors are doing, you would realize how stupid this article is.

    I'm not sure how your were a corporate lawyer, if you missed such obvious information about the series.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:41 AM, ButchieMonad wrote:

    This is a joke, right? Comparing "Vikings" to GoT is like comparing Applebee's to a fine steakhouse. As others have already pointed out your flawed logic with the length of the series, Vikings doesn't even compare to The Tudors, Rome, or even Spartacus. Either pick a better series than Vikings, or a worse one than GoT to start this kind of retarded soapbox over.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:47 AM, TMFDitty wrote:

    Well actually, the GoT showrunners are on record saying they're targeting 80 hours of content. So even if single books get chopped into multiple seasons, yes, once we get to season 4, the writing *is* on the wall, and it's downhill from there to Conclusion.

    VIKINGS faces no such constraint.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:47 AM, richsmithisatwit wrote:

    The writer of this article is horribly misinformed. For one, it's widely known that they are splitting up book 3 into two seasons and it's likely that they will stretch out the story for books 4 and 5 to at least cover three seasons. George has even said that he has a three or so year lead on the series as a result and he expects book six to be out by then. He went on to say that since that will be another opus, they can spend two seasons covering it while he finishes up the last book.

    Now, based on the math used in this article that may seem impossible, but apparently the person giving financial information is not only incapable of doing basic research on the subject of his articles, but he's incapable of basic addition. He claimed that it took 9 years before the third book came out, another 5 years for the fourth book, and then six for the fifth. Sorry, but that equals 20 years, not 17.

    In actuality, book two came out almost 2 and half years after the first and then book came out just under 2 years later. So it took about 4 years to create those next two volumes which is not only quite a bit different than the nine years claimed in this article, but it's pretty regular considering they're over double the size of the average novel. Where he famously got into problems was with the next one as he wanted to skip five years ahead and ended up throwing out much of what he had written to instead cover that span of time in what ended up being the next two books.

    Now that he's gotten over that hump and now that he has the progression of the TV show to spur him on it is quite possible he will finish the next two books at a faster pace. Certainly, he's not back at the ~2 year pace he was when he wrote the first three books, but he is older now and he does intend for the last two books to be longer than his past novels. However, given that he's already two years in to writing the sixth book and he has maybe five years leeway to complete to seventh book, it's not impossible.

    If, however, George can’t pull that off he has said that the last season can instead be based off his plans and work completed for the final book. Obviously, he pointed out that it’s not ideal for the show to reveal how things will end in the book and whatnot, but it can happen. He also pointed out that HBO shows haven’t always run on schedule. Both “Rome” and “Sopranos” had longer than a year break between seasons and although that has not been thus far been case with “Game of Thrones,” it is possible they will do that in the future either because of regular production issues or to purposely give him a bit more time to finish his novel. If, for example, they get done covering the sixth book and he just needs a little more time to finish the seventh one, it’s quite possible that they will delay production so that he can do so.

    Of course, if we are to assume that "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance with Dragons" will be split up into three seasons, and "The Winds of Winter" will take two seasons to cover like "A Storm of Swords," that means they won’t even be able to begin “A Dream of Spring” until season 10 and the chances of the show last that long is slim. So most likely it will never get to cover the entire book series, but that won’t be because George couldn’t keep up with the show. Rather it will be because the show had too much material to cover before actors started dropping out and production costs ballooned even higher.

    So to sum up, the person who wrote this article has zero idea what he's talking about and seven seasons is the magic number for when successful shows tends to end as actors usually don’t want to hang around after that without significant pay raises. That, surprise, surprise, is about how much material that the show currently has to work with as since books three and five are longer than the rest, they can be split into multiple seasons which is exactly what it happening with book three (despite what is claimed in this article). If, by chance, the show runs longer, it's quite possible that George will have book 6 out by then and, based on what he’s said, that will also be able to be split up into two seasons. Ergo, the show has a lot more life in it than the only five seasons this article claims are certain and by the time it has run its course, HBO will probably have something new lined up. So, don’t listen to this person who apparently can’t do basic addition or research his way out of a paper bag.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:50 AM, TMFDitty wrote:

    What I really want to know, though, is how long it will be before Ragnar shows up hawking Capital One credit cards.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:50 AM, cvxxx wrote:

    The Vikings is a slight redo of the 1958 movie. The person is from history and actually existed. One problem many of the show have is funding. But I hope to see more good programming.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 1:02 AM, khaleesi wrote:

    So does that make my dragon's egg worth more or less?

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 1:20 AM, CatWil451 wrote:

    I'm no expert, but... are you saying that because GoT is incomplete, Vikings is going to "beat" it? And... somehow Time Warner is going to suffer at the hands of DIsney? Beyond the discrepancies and research flaws pointed out in the previous comments -- it's not like Disney and TIme Warner's stock prices solely (or even largely) hinge on a single head-to-head battle between two shows. How is this a relevant offering for The Motley Fool? I'm new here -- isn't there a vetting process, or can anyone post an article? I know I'm certainly not encouraged to sign up for a "free report" with more wisdom of this caliber.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 1:32 AM, dca1222 wrote:

    Honestly, i think this article is a lame attempt to drum up readers , comments and overall interest.

    Maybe the writes does feel this way , who knows, but it seems like a pretty convenient way to get people's backs up. Trash one of the most popular shows on TV and endorse some other one , talking about how it's going to "pwn" < ( seriously? ).

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 1:37 AM, TMFDitty wrote:

    Fair question, CatWil451. The answer is that no one event makes or breaks a stock (usually, and one-trick biotechs like Dendreon excepted).

    But Time Warner's HBO depends on the success of must-see shows to keep its subscription numbers up. Every time a hit show ends, it must find a replacement -- and HBO sometimes struggles with this.

    Conversely, History has never tried a scripted drama before. Its success with VIKINGS, on its very first try, and the quick move by Amazon to help distribute the show, is an incremental positive for History's stakeholders, which include Disney.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 1:43 AM, skriki wrote:

    Wow, that's a new low for Yahoo!-a paid article meant to push Disney stock. Must be headed for a crash. After reading this article, I highly recommend shorting Disney stock-if the premise to sell it is that Vikings is better than GoT, you know it's a garbage stock. SHORT IT!

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 3:00 AM, khaleesi wrote:

    I have a strong negative response to all things Disney since 50 years now, but I haven't done the research on his personal history. That's just going on their business practices. I say blow 'em out of the water.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 3:57 AM, Heimdallr wrote:

    If you believe Viking is a show on A&E you just got PWNED!

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 7:34 AM, jtlavoie84 wrote:

    So because Vikings doesn't follow a book, it's going to surpass Game of Thrones? The logic makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. It's like saying 1 + A = Dump Trucks; two shows can exist on two separate networks.

    Frankly, I'm amazed this passes for writing on Fool (or not, some of the articles are laughable). Shows with no constraints are not always successful (Heroes comes to mind). To be honest, I see that show going maybe one more season, while Game of Thrones is an event for television.

    I guess if you can make outlandish assumptions, and write like a 14 year old, you too can write for the Motley Fool!

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 7:39 AM, bparno wrote:

    Ah, they have eyes but do not see, ears and do not hear. Whoever is responsible for the content of this article deserves the dunce cap for an ignoramus. Mr. Martin's story will take longer than what meets the eye. five books written does not make five seasons shown. Book three will be two seasons, book four another two which will give george plenty of time to finish book six, and at five hundred pages a year he should finish easily next year. David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss have well in hand as it was their genius that brought this epic story to hbo. They have the largest cast for any made for tv production, and have promised us we would not be disappointed. So far we are not. Your dour words for this article belong at the bottom of your waste basket.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 8:31 AM, THEJulia wrote:

    Sorry, but Vikings is just a filler for keeping up the bloodlust until the next installment of Game of Thrones.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 9:49 AM, hemmm wrote:

    Author's assertion is essentially that "one medieval type of show is just as good as another" .... laughable.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 10:22 AM, tuttifruitti wrote:

    By the time the last book was available (I watched and waited and checked on it's progression for so long) I didn't care if I received it or not. I do not think the series is nearly as exciting as the books are. Too many scene changes in so little time that it leaves too much up in the air. Nothing concrete . I'd rather see an hour's worth of a good show with only three scenes rather than a couple of minutes worth of 8 scenes. I stopped watching a boring show.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:00 PM, mewp12 wrote:

    The books are so vast that each could easily have been broken into two or three seasons. I think they go too fast and have left out so much. But I am wishing he would write faster. Much be relaxing living in Santa Fe.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 12:33 PM, ffattahi wrote:

    I stopped reading at the author's outrageous early assertion that Vikings is better than Game of Thrones. WHAT A LOAD OF STINKY ROTTEN BS!!!

    We gave Vikings a 4 episode chance to win us over. it didn't and we decided not to waste our time. Here's the big difference between GoT and the Vikings:

    GoT somehow makes you care even about the most despicable characters (Joffrey notwithstanding). The Vikings fails to get our sympathy even for the 'good guys.'

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 10:01 PM, selithiel wrote:

    It's hard to give the author credit when they are disregarding the fact that it is not hard to milk more seasons out of these large and vast books. There is plenty of content, and I will not deny that the fourth and fifth books were not well received; however, if there are only two books left then it is necessary for the preceding books to be used as set up for the climax. I read A Dance with Dragons knowing that I was not going to be in for much other than set up (and based on the ending that is exactly what it did). The thing that Vikings lacks right now is a solid fan base. I personally enjoyed it, but we have to wait until season two has started to make any claims on whether or not it will be so successful. Game of Thrones has a solid and dedicated fan base, and it is a fan base that is willing to wait (obviously, based on the books). That is like saying that fans of BBC's Sherlock will drift off to only watching Elementary just because the rate at which Sherlock is always being delayed and slowly put out.

    It is also hard to credit an argument when all it does is take and not also give. All this article did was bitch about the negatives without acknowledging any positives. I can acknowledge here that Vikings has a large playground with little limits to toy with other than making sure that it does not entirely leap out of historical bounds. It is a good show that has had a solid start, but I will not pretend that it is a little lacking in depth. I am hoping for more depth in the next season, and that is why I am not going to hold the lack of depth against it. I just hope that the said lack of depth does not always remain a constant. There are certainly interesting characters and a generally interesting plot, but there have also already been some dumb moves with the finale of the season. All in all, the real answer is that we will have to see.

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