Breaking the Wheel - what we can learn from the success of GoT

Ikon Communications Director Gemma Russell and Communications Executive Jake Devlin take a look at how great content breaks through. 

I don’t know about you, but there is a huge, Great Sept of Baelor hole in my Monday night diary.


We all have a LOT of questions. Is Cersei lying about her pregnancy? Will we finally get a Cleganebowl? What does the Night King even want? Is he really Brand Stark? And more importantly, where the hell is Tormund?!

But those White Walkers have helped march Game of Thrones into the record books. The Season 8 finale was the most-watched overnight program in Australian subscription television history according to Foxtel. The Dragon and the Wolf achieved a record-breaking audience of 887,000 viewers [source] with more to come once the consolidated data becomes available, making it the 7th highest watched show on the night, and the second highest non-news program (behind The Block). This tops the season’s premiere episode of Game of Thrones, which, at 820,000, held the record for 7 weeks. It certainly powered the Tuesday morning watercooler chat around the office, anyone who was yet to see each episode was immediately shunned in favour of someone who could thoroughly debrief the previous nights events.

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So what drives success of a show like GoT? Undoubtably, the gripping storytelling, unrivalled cinematography and nail-biting action have huge parts to play but the ability for consumers to watch the show where and when they want also plays a significant role.

Its safe to say, the TV landscape has almost fragmented to the point of obliteration.  GoT premiered on Showcase on July 17, 2011 where you either watched it on your TV – or you didn’t watch it at all. Foxtel’s streaming service, Foxtel Now (formally Foxtel Play) didn’t launch until 2013. Nowadays, people are consuming video content wherever, whenever and on whatever they want – and that’s a minimum expectation.

Broadcasters are certainly sitting up and taking note of this. The other highly anticipated show this winter was Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. SBS made the ‘bold’ move to stream the entire series on SBS on Demand before it hit the FTA broadcast schedule. Pretty groundbreaking for them, it meant Australians could watch the show at their own pace – or binge on all 10 episodes should they want to.  The idea being, of course, that they draw more eyeballs to their streaming service.

So what can we learn from the success of these shows?

1.     Being device-agnostic is key; Foxtel's entire rebrand was around the launch of their new on demand and live streaming ‘Foxtel Now’ service. A number of subscribers joined specifically to see the latest season of Game of Thrones, with the service experiencing a 40% subscriber growth in the 48 hours prior to the series premiere [source]. Despite the numbers proving people are willing to pay for content with this ease and choice of access, illegal download numbers for the premiere broke every previous pirating record, with 2.2 million Australian downloads in the first 3 days (and an incredible 90 million worldwide) [source].

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2.     Being part of a conversation has greater importance than just ‘eyeballs’: The talkability of programs such as Game of Thrones and The Handmaid's Tale cannot be understated. The Season 7 finale “blew up twitter” [source], and brands can use a number of tactics to remain relevant in this space, enhancing their brand message.

3.     Quality is king: Consumers now expect this as the new normal. The likes of Netflix and Amazon have ushered in a new era of production value which extends into a client's creative output. If it looks cheap, it's probably because it is.

And with that, night gathers and now our watch begins (for GOT Season 8).


Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ikon Communications Pty Ltd or its associated entities (Ikon). No responsibility is accepted by Ikon for the accuracy of information contained in this article. Ikon and the author(s) expressly disclaim any liability arising from the contents of this article or reliance on such contents by any person.