Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Here is why there won’t be any Game of Thrones sneak peek for its upcoming 8th season – not even for TV critics.

There will be no sneak peek of the upcoming 8th season of HBO's Game of Thrones - not even for TV critics who usually see shows in advance in order to write reviews - but it's not as if the swansong season of the hugely popular fantasy series needs it.

Neither American nor TV critics elsewhere in the world will get to see Game of Thrones screeners beforehand in order to contain leaks and spoilers in the media.

The 8th season of Game of Thrones starts on M-Net (DStv 101) on Monday, 15 April at 03:00 with an episode that will be 54 minutes in duration, as an Express from the US title with episodes that will be shown simultaneously with the United States and again at 22:00 on the same day.

Viewers will have to wait until after the physical broadcast of the first episode at 03:00 on 15 April to read reviews from TV critics in the US and elsewhere in the world.

In South Africa for instance, TV critics will get their first look at the new and final season when M-Net does a big-screen, cosplay celebration viewing party at 03:00 for Game of Thrones on 15 April in Cape Town and Johannesburg. 

It's not yet clear whether HBO will do a Game of Thrones red carpet event and screening in the United States, but if it does, the few media allowed beyond the red carpet coverage and into the theatre will have to sign embargo and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) about what they see and will only be able to report it from 15 April.

HBO is extremely paranoid about anything leaking from Game of Thrones ever since the first 4 episodes leaked online during the 5th season that was traced back to DVD screeners usually sent to American TV critics, although it wasn't a TV critic who leaked the episodes.

Before the 7th season of Game of Thrones started, HBO was infiltrated by Iranian hackers who tried to get possible episodes and information about the new season that made HBO dramatically increase its cyber security.

In India, the pay-TV operator Star India leaked the 4th episode of the 7th season when 4 workers breached its data management system, that saw the episode go viral globally.

That was followed by HBO Spain and HBO Nordic territories just a few weeks later in August 2017 that accidentally leaked the full-high definition penultimate episode of the 7th season of Game of Thrones days before its supposed broadcast date that also saw that episode instantly go global.

Because of this, a while ago HBO asked to audit M-Net's broadcast facilities and to approve the pay-TV broadcaster's security standard operating procedures (SOP).

These new, upgraded security standards regarding content management, storage and playout have been in place specifically for Game of Thrones and all of the other HBO shows that M-Net broadcasts as Express from the US, and was recently reviewed with HBO asking for additional changes from international broadcasters.

Game of Thrones will, besides its linear broadcast on M-Net (DStv 101), also be on MultiChoice's DStv Now Catch Up service after new episodes have been shown, with new episodes also becoming available on the Showmax subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service.

Showmax also carries the episodes of the previous seven seasons as a back catalogue. Game of Thrones episodes will see its new episodes added weekly to Showmax and DStv Now the same day that they air on M-Net.

The reasons for no previews
Interestingly, besides wanting to prevent spoilers and leaks, there are two other reasons why TV and film critics are not previewed shows and movies beforehand.

The first reason is that a studio, distributor, network or channel don't need to because media, public and consumer interest and engagement is already high, built-in or guaranteed.

Due to massive advance interest in a certain film, studios and producers know that people - and enough people - would go to watch a film in cinemas to make it a hit, regardless of good or bad reviews.

The second reason is that content creators definitely know when they're sitting with a dud and in this case try and limit the number of inevitable bad reviews, and the period in advance that those bad reviews start to appear, since this further damages the number of consumers who might pay to see it. 

When DVD or digital screeners of shows are not given to the press, or films are not shown as a press screening, it is now assumed that it's not done because the content is bad.

However, sometimes content is also withheld from the media before airing because it's produced too close to the broadcasting date, is a live TV broadcast, or contains a twist or spoiler that producers want to keep secret.