The great war will not be fought between Sauron and the residents of Middle-earth, or the Targaryens and the rest of Westeros, but instead between HBO and Amazon Prime Video. On March 30, HBO Max announced that the Game of Thrones spinoff series House of the Dragon will begin airing August 21, meaning that it will preempt the beginning of Prime’s much-hyped Lord of the Rings prequel, The Rings of Power, which is set for a September 2 release date. And because the Dragon series run is two episodes longer than Rings, the finales of both shows will happen in the same week. Essentially, what we have here is the 2007 Kanye West-50 Cent album sales beef, but with franchise television.
Amazon has already released an effects-heavy teaser trailer for Rings of Powerand its cast includes TV veterans like Benjamin Walker and Nazanin Boniadi, as well as Saint Maud star Morfydd Clark. The eight episode season will focus on what came before Peter Jackson’s beloved movies, specifically the rise of Sauron and the titular 20 magical rings that he crafted.
House of the Dragon is the first of a series of planned Thrones spinoffs–HBO even spent a reported $30 million on a Naomi Watts-starring prequel series that was never picked up–and zeroes in on House Targaryen in the midst of a bloody internal battle for the Iron Throne. It has gaudier stars, including Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke, and Matt Smith in prominent roles.
“I’ve seen a rough cut of the first episode. And loved it. It’s dark, it’s powerful, it’s visceral, just the way I like my epic fantasy…,” Thrones author George RR Martin wrote on his website after watching the pilot. “I do not think you will be disappointed.”
Announced in October 2019 and in production throughout 2021, House of the Dragon wrapped filming of its 10-episode first season in February. Rings of Power seems to have been in production for a longer period of time, although the COVID-19 pandemic did halt shooting at one point. It wrapped in early August 2021, meaning it will have spent more time in post-production than House of the Dragon.
As the entertainment business analyst and metaverse guru Matthew Ball noted, the difference in number of episodes means that Rings of Power “will exclusively air while House of the Dragon is running.” The close release dates certainly up the petty factor in this multi-million dollar showdown, and discourse around the two series as they air concurrently will be as unavoidable as an onslaught of white walkers.
It’s hardly surprising if HBO feels a sense of competition with Amazon, given that ex-CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly once boasted to the president of Amazon Studios that “I know what it takes to make a great TV show,” adding “this should not be that hard” and listing 12 elements that he considered crucial to success. Amazon Prime has been searching for its Thrones-level global megahit for a few years now, and Rings of Poweralong with the also very expensive adaptation of the fantasy novel series Wheel of Time, represents the streaming service’s biggest shot yet. You think maybe HBO would like to spike the ball on that?
It’s not yet known how much HBO has spent on House of the Dragon, but given the final Game of Thrones Season alone ran $90 million, it’s likely this new venture will be quite costly in its own right. Amazon has spent a staggering $465 million putting together Lord of the Rings.
“This is a full season of a huge world-building show. The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series,” Amazon’s Jennifer Salke told The Hollywood Reporter.
Because both shows are airing on streamers, it will be tougher to gauge their relative success than if they were on traditional networks. But, rest assured, whichever network wins the battle will surely find a way to beat their chest about it. Are you not entertained?