HBO is keeping season 6 of Game of Thrones under lock and key until the premiere next month.
The network announced that they would not be sending any early episodes to the media to be reviewed before the season 6 premiere. Normally, HBO would release an early look at the upcoming season for authorized media networks to write reviews on, but that won’t be happening this year.
“We’re not sending out press copies this year, anywhere in the world,” Michael Lombardo, the president of HBO’s programming, told Entertainment Weekly. “There will be no copies for review.”
This decision is not uncalled for considering Game of Thrones is one of the top pirated shows online. Last year, the first four episodes of GoT were somehow leaked and ended up available on multiple piracy sites the day before the season 5 premiere. Variety reports the episodes were downloaded 3.22 million times in the first 24 hours of being leaked. Clearly, those who pirated the show weren’t aware that they could have read the book way beforehand.
“It’s painful for Dan and David [when leaks happen],” Lombardo said. “When you have press copies, inevitably friends ask, ‘Can I see your copy?’ There are things that happen. We talked about the upsides and downsides. Some of the press are fans who might be disappointed, but they’ll understand.”
This is a particularly interesting move for HBO because it’s almost unheard of for such a critically acclaimed series not to release episodes for authorized eyes only before the season premiere. Will this affect the ratings and viewership? Considering how Game of Thrones has won a record setting 12 Emmys and had an average of 20.2 million viewers for each episode last season, probably not.
If anything, this decision has only increased the anticipation. This will be the first season without an accompanying novel. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the novels the show is based on, was unable to finish the sixth book soon enough to release it before the TV series. Without the book, only those involved in the making of Game of Thrones know what will happen next. If HBO were to release episodes to the media, you can be sure someone would have found a way to pirate them and post them online somewhere.
Game of Thrones season 6 premieres on April 24.