In TV’s ‘Game of Thrones,’ HBO Fights With Ice and Fire

Kit Harington's Jon Snow should play a big role in season 4 of Game of Thrones. Credit: HBO.

Count me among those guilty of occasionally dismissing HBO after taking a close look at the outrageous gains Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) is enjoying. You know what? I shouldn't be so quick to scoff.

The latest preview for season 4 of Game of Thrones -- a 14-minutes epic I've embedded below for your viewing pleasure -- suggests the network has invested heavily to give GoT viewers everything they want from the show: a bloody, tragic, terrifying epic tale featuring lovable (Sam, Dany), loathsome (Joffrey, Tywin), and terribly complex (Jaime, Tyrion) characters.

It's an impressive formula created by author George R.R. Martin. His A Song of Ice and Fire books inspired the show. Season 4 opens on April 2 and will apparently focus on the second half of A Storm of Swords, volume three of the seven-part series.

History says audiences will be thrilled with what showrunner David Benioff and his team bring to screen, which bodes well for HBO parent Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) . Here's a closer look at recent financial trends and how they map to last year's huge jump in GoT viewership:

Metric
2013
2012
% Change

HBO revenue

$4,890 million

$4,686 million

4.4%

HBO operating income

$1,678 million

$1,547 million

8.5%

Estimated HBO subscribers (domestic)

28.81 million

27.47 million

4.9%

Game of Thrones U.S. viewership (median)

4.89 million

3.79 million

28.9%

Sources: Time Warner, Wikipedia.

Good numbers, right? Sure, but the better news -- especially if you own Time Warner stock -- is that these figures represent a small part of the story. HBO has often said that GoT draws more than 13 million viewers per episode once you count those who tune in later via DVR, on-demand, repeats, and the like. Within spitting distance of the zombie megahit The Walking Dead, in other words.

Will 2014 bring further growth? It sure looks like it. The preview below has already amassed nearly 3.9 million YouTube views in 24 hours. A season 4 trailer released a month ago has more than 17 million views. Season 3's previews never made it past 3.8 million views.

Winter is coming alright. And unlike the poor souls stuck in Westeros, Time Warner investors should benefit from the chill.

Now, enjoy the preview! When you're done, please leave a comment below to let us know what you think of Game of Thrones and Time Warner stock.

How to become as rich as a Lannister
HBO wants to be your primary source of entertainment. So do any number of others. Add it up, and it's clear the cable business you know is going away. But do you know how to profit from the shift? There's $2.2 trillion up for grabs, and three companies are poised to benefit most. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.


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