Zai Bennett: If House of the Dragon is half as popular as GoT, it's a success

Sky content chief talks Game of Thrones prequel hope and the future of HBO output deal

By Alice Redman 19 Aug 2022

Zai Bennett: If House of the Dragon is half as popular as GoT, it's a success
Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon. Credit: Sky/HBO

Sky content chief Zai Bennett believes Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon will be a success even if it attracts only half the audience of its predecessor.

Bennett said he is hopeful the HBO series, which will debut on Sky Atlantic on 22 August, will have a similar level of success as the original GoT and bring in the 6m audience figures the channel saw during its peak.

However, he admitted he would be happy for 50% of that viewership, noting the difference between pay-tv numbers and free-to-air.

“If a show’s audience [on Sky] is in the millions, it’s big,” he told the Broadcast Behind the Screens podcast. “If half of them come back [for House of the Dragon], it’s a massive success.”

The final season of Game of Thrones in 2019 opened with an audience of 3.5 million across both its 2am and 9pm launch episodes and finished on 3.8 million.

Sky is also working to build back a fanbase that was left burnt by what critics and audiences largely panned as an unsatisfactory ending to the original, despite its huge viewership.

Bennett, who is Sky’s managing director of content, called House of the Dragon “a really confident start to a prequel”, and praised the way the series utilised familiarity and access points to GoT, while retaining its own original story.

Bennett also said he believes Sky and HBO will continue to enjoy a fruitful relationship, despite the uncertainty over the continuation of the long-term output deal, which is set to expire in 2025.

The exec noted that besides having rights to a lot of the US broadcaster’s output, Sky also co-produces creatively with the Warner Bros Discovery brand.

“We’ve got a lot of touchpoints with them as a creative partner,” he said. “Notable recent shows range from dramas The Baby and Landscapers and documentary The Princess.”

Sky’s output deal has a way still to go and Bennett hopes that all Sky can retain its spot as the home for Thrones – even if the output deal is shuttered or recast.

“We love being the home of Game of Thrones and all associated programming,” he said. “There’s seven or more different things in the works, depending on when they come to air, we hope that they would be on Sky.”

This article originally appeared on KFTV's sister site, Broadcast.

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