With Game of Thrones over, will subscribers flee HBO?


Game of Thrones drove a lot of subscribers to HBO. Will they remain now that the show is over?

Spinoffs are in the works, but this stage of the Game of Thrones phenomena has come to an end. Despite some negative reception to the final season, the show captivated audiences, with the series finale setting an HBO ratings record at 19.3 million. But with no more episodes coming on Sunday nights, there was predictably talk on social media about people considering dropping their HBO subscriptions.

For reference, HBO Now costs $15/month, whereas Netflix has plans that vary from $9, $14, and $16. Hulu’s ad-based subscription is $6/month, while its “no-commercials” plan is $12. The upcoming Disney-Plus will cost $7/month.

With Game of Thrones (and also Veep) now out of the picture, the $15 gets a lot harder to swallow. There is already competition that has cheaper offerings, and with Disney, Apple, and others soon entering the “Game of Streaming,” $15 dollars will only seem more unreasonable.

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The development of Thrones spinoffs may eventually soften the blow of the series ending, but HBO has plenty of other solid content as well. Westworld, Big Little Lies, Succession, Barry, Insecure, and Ballers are some of the more notable shows, and HBO also has new content in the works, including Watchmen, and His Dark Materials. So it’s not as if the network is in bad shape; for plenty of people, it likely offers more than enough content to warrant their subscription.

But at some point, HBO will have to drop its price in order to maintain/grow its subscriber base. According to research from Mintel, HBO users are two times more likely than users of any other platform to cancel their subscription when a particular show ends. This suggests HBO could indeed be in for a significant drop in subscribers post Thrones.

The same study found that the ideal price point consumers would want to pay for an “all-encompassing” streaming package is ~$20 a month. Assuming people want to have access to 2-4 different streaming platforms, this wouldn’t leave much room for HBO.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that HBO is obviously well aware of its price positioning relative to competitors. HBO has tried, seemingly fairly successfully, to cultivate a brand of “premium television.” It believes it churns out higher quality content than its competitors and that its price reflects that. I think HBO’s content may indeed be of this quality, but regardless, it certainly feels as if it has convinced a lot of people this is the case. In this sense, there is likely some “game theory” at play from HBO. When people see that HBO is priced higher than anything else, it’s natural to assume that it must be the best of the best (otherwise why would it be priced so much higher, right?).

Next. Opinion: Game of Thrones’ final season wasn’t that bad. dark

Overall, the combination of increased streaming competition and the end of Game of Thrones will likely force HBO to lower its subscription pricing. At the same time, HBO can still make the case that it produces higher quality content than any other streaming platform. For this reason, I would expect HBO to maintain pricing that is higher than that of its competition.