An epic battle is about to begin, and it’s not between warring houses or mythical creatures.
It’s a battle between mega-TV franchises, and it’s going to mean a very tiring few months for viewers who are being asked to invest deeply in not one, but four huge genre series that together are worth something like a billion dollars.
The main event is a duel between Game of Thrones prequel, Dragon Houseand Lord of the Rings prequel, Rings of Power.
And if you think the media is fanning this TV war, think about it: at the same time last year, Amazon announced the premiere. Rings of Power September 2, 2022. All were given 13 months’ notice. Then HBO intervened and chose August 21 as the date of the show. Dragon Houseas if rushing into battle.
The final of the two shows will air the same week. This is a conscious choice, and not everyone can emerge victorious. This is going to be a shitty fight.
It’s like Marvel and Warner Bros decided to release The Avengers and Justice League on the same day.
Both shows are betting massive amounts of money on the power of two famous brands with rusty fans. But will audiences accept two very demanding, complex fantasy shows?
Or will fans decide that they prefer elves to dragons or scheming royalty to the rise of Sauron and leave the rest of the little time they have each week for something completely different, maybe workplace comedy? Each episode attracts the same audience of fans.
The fact that they are both fantasy shows would have been unthinkable 25 years ago when the genre was considered a nerd-only niche.
Yet the biggest cultural hotspots in this relatively young age were fantasy. Harry Potter is the juggernaut of books, movies, theme parks, merchandise and stage performances. Game of Thrones dominates the zeitgeist on television in a way that nothing else has the same degree of obsession as Soprano as well as Breaking Bad.
This is partly because Game of Thrones appeared at a time of rising pop cultural discourse on the internet, with TV reviews and Reddit gaining momentum, fueling the buzz around the show. The series spawned an online industry.
But it’s also because fantasy epics are now mainstream and every studio and streamer wants one, or two, or three, or four, or five. And they are willing to pay for it.
Rings of Power has the distinction of being the most expensive television series ever made. In addition to the $250 million Amazon paid for the rights to JRR Tolkien’s The Second Age, the production budget was reportedly $465 million. At eight episodes, that’s US$58 million per episode.
Keep in mind that Rings of Power it doesn’t have big-name actors making big salaries, so the money goes almost entirely into production, spending a lot of money on building the world.
When that first trailer hit during Comic-Con, there was no arguing that it didn’t at least look spectacular.
Dragon Housewhich will air in Australia on Binge and Foxtel*, is comparatively paltry: $150 million to $200 million for a 10-episode season, which is less than $20 million per episode.
Fantasy shows don’t come cheap, especially when there are 17 dragons involved.
In the midst of all this, two more crappy, but no less ambitious rivals are in the wings, Sandmanthe long-awaited film adaptation of the legendary comic book by Neil Gaiman, and Andorstreaming Star Wars series.
Such is the insanely synchronized state of affairs that the Star Wars TV show isn’t even the second most anticipated upcoming streaming series.
That’s probably why Disney blinked this morning, saw the messy landscape, and said, “Yeah, no, we don’t want to be a part of this,” and pushed Andorrelease in three weeks at the end of September. Wise choice.
Disney would do Andor no favors if it kept its original August 31 premiere date sandwiched between Dragon House as well as Rings of Power. It’s not high fantasy, but science fiction is very close in genre.
By moving it to September 21, Andor will release three episodes at once, and he will have some clarity. Disney will hope the fans will do their part. Dragon House as well as Rings of Power options and settled down, ready to consider a third option.
And Netflix has a racing horse too Sandmanwhich comes out August 5th. Netflix hopes that Sandman releases early enough to avoid the main fight.
Sandman this is a high-stakes story about the Dream, the being responsible for our subconscious mind, who is captured and held captive for a century, unleashing chaos on the realms.
It’s not the most accessible storytelling and the film has been in various stages of production since the 1990s, hitting the tables of several directors and screen talents including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Roger Avery and Terry Gilliam.
Only now, after the resounding commercial success of Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy and original Game of Thrones a series that TV executives even have the nerve to green-light and fund a show based on a relatively esoteric comic book series. Sandman it reportedly cost US$165 million to make.
Decision makers have witnessed an appetite for genre art and they want to capitalize on that desire from the audience by putting lots and lots of money into these works.
Everyone is trying to find the next one Game of Thronesincluding Game of Thrones. HBO feverishly hopeful Dragon House will be able to bring back the same obsessive fandom as the original series.
Of course, Game of Thrones only happened because of Jackson Lord of the Rings.
Like Jaime and Cersei, it’s all very incestuous. Just like Jaime and Cersei, everyone is about to go into battle. I wonder whose head will be crushed by the collapsed ceiling.
Sandman on Netflix from August 5, Dragon House on Binge and Foxtel from August 21, Rings of Power is on Amazon Prime Video from September 2 and Andor on Disney+ starting September 21st.
*Binge and Foxtel are owned by News Corp, the publisher of this website.