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Is The End Of 'Game Of Thrones' A Problem For HBO?

Is The End Of 'Game Of Thrones' A Problem For HBO?

Is the game up on HBO now that time is up on “Game of Thrones?”

Many Wall Street media watchers say HBO and its parent company AT&T Inc., (NYSE: T) are likely to weather the loss of the Sunday night viewing phenomenon just as the network did after other hits, such as when “The Sopranos” faded to black — or when Big followed Carrie to Paris to end “Sex and the City.”

“I don’t think they lose many subscribers,” Tigress Financial analyst Ivan Feinseth said in an interview with Benzinga. “I don’t think people are going to cancel HBO.”

And even if some do, subscriptions will go up when another hit comes along, said Feinseth, who has a Buy rating on AT&T.

“There’s going to be the next ‘Game of Thrones,’ the next ‘Sopranos,’” Feinseth said.

New TV Landscape

This time is different from the last time a big HBO series wrapped. 

One, “Game of Thrones” grew HBO’s subscription base — so now there’s potentially more to lose.

Last Sunday’s final 'GOT' episode was seen by 19.3 million viewers on HBO’s platforms, which include regular pay TV and the streaming services HBO Go and HBO Now.

The viewing number was a record for the network. Viewership on the 9 p.m. network telecast alone was 13.6 million, topping the record set by “The Sopranos” season four premiere in 2002.

“Many consumers have subscribed to HBO’s OTT service in order to get access to the popular show,” tech analyst Buddy Lo of Mintel Group said in a blog post about the firm’s market research on HBO subscribers’ plans.

“While obviously a boon to AT&T’s bottom line … those consumers pose the greatest risk to abandon the network once their beloved show is over.”

Mintel’s research found that 20 percent of HBO Now subscribers said last month that they’d cancel their subscription if their favorite show ended.

It’s worth pointing out that survey takers have said before they’d cancel subscriptions — but didn't follow through. 

Still, HBO’s Now App has seen drops in subscribers after previous “Game of Thrones” seasons have ended, though the subscriber base has stabilized in more recent between-series periods.

More Alternatives

Another big difference between now and the end of previous pay TV hits  and one that is growing in significance — is there are more alternatives for those who might stray from HBO.

In addition to Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), and Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), there are new streaming options coming from Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), both arriving in the fall, as well as services connected to a number of other content providers from ESPN to BritBox, which streams British shows.

The key for HBO parent AT&T: it has a streaming service coming this year too, which will bring WarnerMedia’s content library of movies and TV shows to the table as a subscription driver.

In the next few months, AT&T likely won’t focus as much on "GOT" fans unsubscribing as it will on driving sign-ups for AT&T’s new streaming service.

“That’s the future,” Feinseth said of the world of big library streaming services, which he believes people will subscribe to in groups of a few.

Someone might, for example, continue to subscribe to HBO or the AT&T streaming service — as well as Disney Plus, ESPN and maybe one or two others.

“For $30 [or] $40, you get a pretty good library,” Feinseth said.

Related Links:

The Incredible 'Game Of Thrones' Run Is Ending

Wells Fargo: AT&T In Good Position To Capitalize On Streaming

Latest Ratings for T

Jan 2021Credit SuisseMaintainsNeutral
Jan 2021Raymond JamesUpgradesMarket PerformOutperform
Dec 2020Morgan StanleyDowngradesOverweightEqual-Weight

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