It is customary for every Game of Thrones fan to savor the week-long wait for each new episode, treating their senses to an hour-long episode full of emotional highs, action-packed battle scenes, dramatic twists and turns and three fire-breathing dragons. Now, imagine if you could experience all that on your mobile phone in just 20 minutes. It's not quite the same, is it? Despite this, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has already envisioned this for viewers in the near future.
Stephenson's comments come just as AT&T looks to close a $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Inc., the company responsible for HBO and, in turn, Game of Thrones. While speaking at the J.P. Morgan’s Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Stephenson conceptualized the idea of a 20-minute episode of Game of Thrones for the mobile-viewing audience,
I’ll cause [HBO CEO Richard] Plepler to panic. But think about things like ‘Game of Thrones.’ In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode.
The telecom giant has already entered the entertainment business with DirecTV, and are now looking to complete the $85 billion deal while waiting for the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Stephenson's comments suggest that he wants to combine the mobile-viewing customer base of AT&T and the popularity of tent-pole shows like Game of Thrones to push their ad impressions from 250 billion per year to almost a trillion.
As mobile viewing is one of the hottest avenues for telecom, AT&T subscribers will be able to treat themselves to quality shows like Game of Thrones on the go. The reduced running time would theoretically allow viewers to enjoy an entire episode with a cut that is specifically appropriated for mobile users - but only time will tell whether or not this is something Thrones fans would be keen to enjoy.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Reduced Run-Time:
According to Stephenson, AT&T and DirecTV delivers 250 billion ad impressions per year, while Time Warner serves up 750 billion in total. As AT&T has access to user behavioral data, they will be able to monetize that inventory at a higher rate than other traditional media companies. This strategy will be further bolstered with the telecom company's plan to launch their 5G wireless broadband next year, as that will allow viewers access to their favorite shows without buffering.
While shorter versions of each episode seems convenient, it's possible that the 20-minute run-time could rob Game of Thrones of its emotional weight. Season 6's "Battle of the Bastards" is one of the most popular episodes of Game of Thrones to date, which IMDb currently rates as 9.9 out of 10. This episode is a great example as to why Game of Thrones might not be suited to a shorter running time, regardless of how fans choose to watch the show.
The hour-long episode featured an epic battle that built tension before the enormous battle by threatening (and ultimately taking) Rickon Stark's life. The anxiety, frustration and sadness that builds up to this battle sequence, which is well over 10 minutes long itself, simply wouldn't be as impressive if it were cut short. Similarly, the infamous Red Wedding would not have had the same effect if a sense of calm hadn't been properly presented beforehand.
Although AT&T is taking a revolutionary step in order to bring the beloved TV series to their mobile audience, perhaps Games of Thrones isn't the show that will allow this trend to take off. With multiple spin-offs already planned and the show's seventh season right around the corner, fans have plenty of hour-long epics to look forward to in the near future.
Would you like to watch 20-minute episodes of Game of Thrones via mobile? Sound off in the comment section!