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HBO Takes Risk by Pinning ‘House of the Dragon’ Against ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’

Streaming Wars Chapter VII: A Dance of Fantasies.

Streaming services are scheming to make up ground on industry leader Netflix after it recorded its first subscriber decline in a decade last month. Netflix showing vulnerability coincides with HBO Max and Amazon Prime preparing to debut their most ambitious projects of the streaming era, House of the Dragon and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

But is there enough of an appetite and marketplace for both series to exist and succeed at the same time? The popular film podcast Bald Move is skeptical.

Assuming both shows air one new episode a week, the 10-episode season of Dragon (premiering August 21) will end the same week as the eight-episode season of Rings (September 2), the week of October 17.

Historically, when two shows or films of the same genre debut too closely, fans declare one inferior or forgettable. In 1994, the film Wyatt Earp could never get out of the shadows of Tombstone, a film that similarly depicted lawman Wyatt Earp just six months earlier.

In a time of too much content, asking a substantial number of streamers to closely follow two complex fantasy series at the time is questionable. 

Dragon heads into battle at a decided disadvantage. HBO spent under $20 million per episode to produce the first season, while Amazon spent over $465 million on the first year of Rings.

Rings should and will have superior effects. Jeff Bezos, who issued Amazon studios a mandate to “find the next Game of Thrones,” is fully behind the project. Rings will go live to stream on Fridays, the morning after Thursday Night Football airs on Amazon Prime.

So expect to see Middle-Earth get prominent ad time during the weekly NFL game.

The Lord of the Rings franchise also has built-up goodwill. The Game of Thrones universe does not. Thrones fans want Dragon to not only be great but to make up for how the original series ended and George RR Martin’s inability to finish the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

And remember, HBO is the one pinning the two shows directly against one another. Amazon had announced Rings would premiere in September 2022 for over a year. It wasn’t until last month that HBO decided to purposely run Dragon opposite of Rings.

The counter is that Dragon will draw more viewers, regardless of quality, because it will air on HBO Max and live on the HBO cable package.

Sure, but Amazon and HBO have different barometers of success. Amazon only needs to establish itself as a streaming player to gain market share.

HBO, on the other hand, wants to regain its reputation as the premier original programming provider, after losing ground to Stranger Things and Ozark on Netflix, Yellowstone on Paramount and The Mandalorian on Disney+ since the end of Thrones in 2019.

In addition, Amazon is worth almost two trillion dollars. Its streaming department is a fun side project. Meanwhile, HBO parent company Discovery is in a mountain of debt and is relying on HBO Max to justify its acquisition of WarnerMedia. The expectations are not the same. 

Even as a bigger fan of Westeros, The Rings of Power has a fire-breathing and magical advantage over House of the Dragon as they both head to war.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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