It's a baroud d'honneur. In the night from Sunday to Monday, Game Of Thrones is back for an eighth and final season that should take the form of a total war against this winter that seemed never to come. The knell will sound one last time on May 20, at the end of the eighty minutes of the sixth episode, the final rattle of a phenomenon show whose conclusion could also mean the disappearance of a certain conception of the TV series as an orgasm collective and simultaneous, programmed by channels in the process of being made obsolete by the advent of streaming platforms. Become the infatuated symbol of the television blockbuster, Game Of Thrones is since 2011 the jewel of the house HBO, which has delivered to the world series among his finest works – Oz, the Sopranos, The Wire, the list could stretch at will.
By investing in 2011 the marked field of fantasy to plunge it into a bath of ultraviolet and hypersexuality, to make it a territory where all slips and turnarounds seem plausible, HBO has managed to impose Game Of Thrones in the heads of all series lovers. That the small and great intrigues of the kingdom of Westeros were followed feverishly, that the messianic Jon Snow continued to be imposed in order to be able to complain about it or that the case was dropped after three months. seasons, everyone had to make an opinion on the series. And quick. The unfortunate stragglers whose viewing was not synchronous with the weekly broadcast to take refuge behind their finest blinkers to escape the unfortunate revelations of a show thought of as a shock factory, experience calibrated for the era of social networks.
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Far from seeing his audience crumble, Game Of Thrones has seen its seat grow year after year on its original chain. The 2.5 million spectators of season 1 rising to 10.7 million for the latest, with a peak to 12.1 million people live in front of HBO for the final episode of season 7. It's not to mention the legal streaming broadcasts, internationally and, more importantly, with downloading and illegal streaming. Ten times, according to the Washington Post which reported that season 7 had been hacked 1.03 billion times in September 2017, less than a month after its conclusion.
In addition to the paradox that almost no one knows the name of his two showrunners (David Benioff and DB Weiss, eclipsed by George RR Martin, the author of the novels), the series has become a must-have pop object and arouses an adoration that it is closer to the world's entertainment franchises than to other television objects. As the Lord of the Rings, his filming locations have become pilgrimage sites for fans, boosting tourism in Ireland, Iceland, Malta or Croatia (to the point where Dubrovnik has complained about the hordes of people curious to find the "real" Port-Réal ). As Star Wars, his accessories and costumes are the subject of a monster exhibition, barnum which, after having landed Porte de Versailles in the summer of 2018, has resumed its tour of Europe. Fanaticism taking a terrifying turn as the number of children branded with a surname inspired by the series grows: the 45 Daenerys identified in France since 2015 are nothing compared to the fact that Khaleesi joined the list of the 100 most given names in the United States in 2017 …
There is no doubt that the intrinsic qualities of the series are a big part of its success, but the extent of the runaway is largely due to the immense plasticity of Game Of Thrones, each projecting what he wants on this black mirror. Sociologists, historians, philosophers and politicians have found in the sub-texts of the series echoes of their own concerns, feasting a press and viewers eager for this type of legitimizing readings. Better, Game Of Thrones seems impervious to controversy, each criticism against the series (too white, too violent, too sexist) finding his specialist able to return the argument online defense.
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This exceptional appetite meets an exceptional device for its final fireworks. At the time of the first filming, curled up in July 2018 in the biggest parano, where the creators of the series put in box several purposes and say to have resorted to devices antidrone (!) In order to prevent any leak. Its record budget was obviously revised upward and amounting to $ 14 million per episode, for a season to nearly 100 million (against 60 for season 1). The broadcast is also in tune. The OCS channel, already accustomed to the simultaneous subtitled version of the HBO retransmission, this time puts in place a dubbed version in French to ensure that everyone can enjoy together in the middle of the night. One last time before everyone goes back to their new routines.
Because since the beginning of the show eight years ago, the audiovisual landscape has been rebuffed by the emergence and ramping up of streaming platforms whose practices have changed the modes of consumption of the series. By delivering a block of the dozen episodes that make up a season, Netflix and others have nerdized the ritual of the weekly episode. The wait has been replaced by the binge watching, where it is a question of swallowing a series before rushing on the next one. A great devaluation that escaped the living room to settle on new surfaces – the computer, the phone, the tablet. To the point that there is nothing surprising to see someone blink their eyes in front of a series in a crowded metro train. The arrival of these new players has especially precipitated the series in an era of overabundance, referred to as the "peak TV". In four years, the number of series (new seasons or news) broadcast in the United States has doubled, touching the 500 mark last year. If the old Link still producing a lot and remain very popular, this explosion of the offer is mainly the work of streaming platforms with inflationary budgets. Netflix, in the first place, whose boss explained to Hollywood Reporter in March the company was investing $ 1.4 billion a month in content. Less popular in France, Amazon and Hulu also participate in this phenomenon, while new players are profiling: Facebook and YouTube, who have already put a foot in the original creation, while Apple, Disney and WarnerMedia (which includes HBO) must enter the dance by the end of the year by launching their own service.
The most threatened by the advent of these behemoths are the pay channels like HBO, FX (The Shield, Louie, Fargo, Atlanta) or AMC (Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead) which had in their time put in disruptors by producing series of authors, often expensive, to distinguish themselves and to attract subscribers. For those who see the excitement of a golden age of series, the boss of the FX channel, John Landgraf, responds that it is at best a "Golden age", reference to the economic revival experienced by America at the end of the Civil War, which was coupled with a brutal widening of inequalities. Spades barely veiled against Netflix and "Its predatory behavior", which threatens to provoke a exhaustion of the sector by aspiring all the talents. A concern found in another form in the mouth of the ex-showrunner of Lost, Carlton Cuse, who sees in this sudden opulence a risk of dilution comparable to what would happen to a pro sports league that would suddenly grow from 30 clubs to 90.
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If we can enjoy seeing the rivalry between old and new guards materialize each year at an Emmy Awards ceremony transformed into a front line where each rewarded series comes serve one side against the other, the consequences of this war could well come to fruition quickly. In an effort to produce more content by shareholders eager to feed WarnerMedia's next platform, HBO is seeing its "premium series" model challenged internally. The resignation of his emblematic boss Richard Plepler, late February, leaving fears that this space apart in terms of creation does not arrive at dusk.
With this double mutation of immediacy and profusion, it is the reception of the series which is deeply modified and, with, the way in which one speaks about them. Pausing the story between two weekly deliveries, the format of the TV series has encouraged the emergence of community rituals. Notably the creation of a para-narrative on the forums, where we share re-readings both retrospective (how the last episode fits in and transforms the storyline continuum) and prospective (what will happen). Space that is threatened by the binge. Monster whose every movement is dissected, debated and recompiled into Wiki cards, Game Of Thrones has lent itself to all accounting theories and maniaqueries. As it has benefited full of the effect of simultaneity, the impact of episodes-events like "The Red Wedding", memorable scene of nuptial massacre having stunned the community of fans, being increased by the sound boxes offered by Twitter or summaries of episodes in the press.
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Even though HBO is already backing up, preparing the pilot for a spin-off series in the Westeros universe (a first for the channel), the end of Game Of Thrones act the tipping of an era of commentary to an age of recommendation. Around the coffee machine (real or virtual), discussions are less about a particular episode that the series seen or to see. A way of finding a common base within catalogs which, if they comply with all the conveniences of the spectator, also enclose it in a solitary experience.