In a tribute to the official title for the series of books upon which the show is based (“A Song of Ice and Fire”), the network literally enclosed the release date in a giant block of ice, and then blasted it with flamethrowers until the ice melted. That’s when the show’s return date was displayed: 07/16/17.
It’s a PR stunt literally borrowed from the playbook of Internet parody site Clickhole, one that proved truly ballsy. But it wasn’t flawless: Not only did it take over an hour for the date to reveal itself, but the feed itself stalled out twice, necessitating three separate videos to capture the entirety of the “action.”
Nevertheless, fans were actively engaged throughout, leaving their comments of “FIRE” and “DRACARYS” (the High Valyrian word for “fire”) to theoretically trigger the flamethrower blasts. And those who stuck through to the end were rewarded with a new teaser (below) celebrating the show’s previous six seasons of jaw-dropping drama, as well as a nice video message from Liam Cummingham (who plays Davos), thanking us for our “help.” (Other cast members also chimed in with pre-recorded greetings during the feed to encourage audience participation.)
The move was without a doubt frustrating — especially if you were supposed to be doing literally anything else in the middle of a work day besides watch ice melt — but was also fascinating as a way of showcasing just what kind of engagement “Game of Thrones” has with its audience. The live stream easily hit 160,000 live viewers at one point, and the three live feed videos, as of press time, racked up over 5 million views in less than two hours. Hundreds of thousands of people commented as instructed. We were HBO’s puppets, and oh, how we danced.
“Thrones” isn’t just premiering later than usual this year — it’s premiering after May 31, meaning that it will not be eligible to compete in this year’s Emmys (the first time since its premiere that it won’t be able to dominate the ceremony, especially in the technical categories). Given that, one might question whether the show’s reign as one of the kings of Peak TV could come to a close before its final seasons actually air. After all, with only two seasons left, it’s easy to imagine “Thrones” slipping into obscurity sooner rather than later.
That is, until this stunt. As we’ve seen time and time again on “Game of Thrones,” the best way to confirm your power is a brutal show of strength, and HBO did just that. Fans and journalists might have cracked snarky jokes on Twitter while it happened, but the point is we did watch, and we did wait… and in doing so, we confirmed just how massive the show still is in the cultural landscape. If executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were at all nervous about the later premiere date, they clearly shouldn’t be. Love it or hate it, the “Game of Thrones” audience – and the reporters who cover it – clearly remain obsessed.