This past weekend was somewhat of a return to glory for media formats that had seen better days. Between Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, both projects represented “must see TV/movies” if you wanted to keep with the general chatter of the day. Must-see-anything is becoming rarer and rarer these days specifically as it relates to seeing a show or film right when it first comes out. Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame have proven that singular shows or films can still dominate pop culture in ways that most projects can’t penetrate in our increasingly streaming and fragmented society.
I’ve seen all of 30 minutes of the very first episode of Game of Thrones and subsequently have no idea of what the hell is going on. I do know that this is the last season of the heavily acclaimed HBO series and every Sunday night, my twitter timeline is filled with GOT references. I understand none of these references, but supposedly some woman name Arya is about that action boss.
What’s interesting about Game of Thrones is how it absolutely dominates the topic of conversation on Sunday nights, leading into Monday. It seems like everybody and their mother is watching this show. Brands have picked up on the popularity of it as well and there are even podcasts recapping each episode. Even the current occupant of the White House made reference to the show in the midst of his own litany of problems.
HBO was non too pleased with this depiction.
Game of Thrones shows that the HBO brand is not only strong, but that HBO can still deliver what some might call ‘appointment TV.’ Essentially, you have to catch it right then and there or you’ll miss out on the broader conversation that everyone else is having. That’s an advantage that HBO still maintains over a competitor like Netflix. Netflix may have more content, but because it doesn’t function in the traditional episodic format, you’ll never have everyone watching a show at the same time. The best you can hope for is that everyone is talking about your show for a week, as was the case earlier this year with the film Bird Box.
With Avengers: Endgame, we knew this would be an event and it did not disappoint earning an opening weekend record of $1.2 billion dollars. Marvel, the company behind the film, has had quite the run beginning with the original Iron Man film in May of 2008.
The company has built a superhero brand that brings out geeks, die-hards, kids, their parents, and just about everyone in between to these films. This has benefited not only Marvel, but movie theaters as well that find themselves competing not only with streaming services, but anything else that may be vying for consumer’s attention these days. At a time when people are increasingly watching films at home or on their phones, going to the movie theater involves a certain social and cultural experience that really can’t be replicated in someone’s living room.
Make no mistake, despite Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, the move to more fragmented media outlets and thus topics of conversation, is only continuing. What these projects do show however, is that you have to be really damn good in 2019 to capture the topic of conversation for days on end. Even then, you’ll maybe get a week at most, before everyone moves on to something else.