By Joanna Robinson. Photos: Courtesy of HBO.
Game of Thrones continues to break new ground when it comes to how we view TV. Not content to revolutionize what we can expect from special effects and genre storytelling, the smash HBO hit has now even put its unique spin on the most mundane of news: its release date. In a splashy Facebook Live videostream—where thousands of thirsty Thrones fans literally spent over an hour watching a block of ice melt—the marketing department unveiled the later-than-usual premiere for Season 7. It’s official: winter is coming back on July, 16 2017—just in time for summer. The announcement came with a fun new teaser (but no new footage).
We already knew that this year, the show would be delayed a bit from its usual April premiere. Last summer, HBO’s new president of programming, Casey Bloys, confirmed that weather was to blame: “Now that winter has arrived on Game of Thrones, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss felt that the storylines of the next season would be better served by starting production a little later than usual, when the weather is changing. Instead of the show’s traditional spring debut, we’re moving the debut to summer to accommodate the shooting schedule.” The season is also confirmed to be shorter: seven episodes instead of the usual ten.
With massive ratings and a mountain of awards season hardware, Weiss and Benioff are powerful enough players at HBO that they could call this particular shot. But the move is a bit of a blow for HBO, which will probably have to cede some considerable Emmy territory to other prestige shows this year. Because of the later start, Game of Thrones won’t be eligible to compete—and other networks, perhaps smelling some blood in the water, have rushed in to fill that April gap. Prestige drama offerings from AMC, FX, Hulu, and Starz—Better Call Saul, Fargo, The Handmaid’s Tale, and American Gods—are just a few of the shows premiering next month with an eye on Emmy gold.
HBO won’t be left out of the April downpour. Veteran comedies Veep and Silicon Valley will return in their usual time period (though without their cushy Westerosi lead in), and the network has given the critically adored The Leftovers the old Game of Thrones slot. After a rough start, that show really found its legs (and a ton of acclaim) in its second year. With this upcoming third season also planned as its last, The Leftovers honestly does have a shot at a late-in-the-game Emmys surge.
HBO can’t be happy to have its strongest horse out of this year’s race. But the network can take solace in the fact that it’s guaranteed to entirely dominate the pop culture conversation this summer. This is old, familiar territory for HBO, which once ruled the hottest months—first with Sex and the City, then with True Blood. The network hasn’t found a viable summer show since its vampire hit went off the air in 2014, (though it tried with True Detective Season 2). But we can already declare HBO the winner of summer 2017. No wonder last year’s summer TV smash—Netflix’s Stranger Things—scampered over to an October premiere date this year. Even the Demagorgon can’t beat Daenerys’s dragons.
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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