Game of Thrones“Game of Thrones”, made at a reported cost of over $150m.
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Half a billion dollars’ worth of swordplay, sorcery and sex is on its way to a small screen near you. On August 21st Warner Bros Discovery launched “House of the Dragon”, a spin-off of its racy smash-hit, “Game of Thrones”, made at a reported cost of over $150m. Hot on its heels, on September 1st Amazon Prime Video will release “The Rings of Power”, a more chaste but even pricier drama based on the “Lord of the Rings” books. With a rumoured pricetag of $465m, Amazon’s offering will be the most expensive piece of television ever made.

The near-simultaneous releases will make for an epic ratings battle. But they are also part of a longer-running war that pits old Hollywood studios against new streaming upstarts. Warner Bros, one of America’s most venerable film studios, will mark its 100th birthday next year. Amazon, which makes its money from e-commerce and cloud computing, launched its video sideline only five years ago. As the streaming wars intensify, each side believes it has an advantage over the other.

Lately the dragons of old Hollywood have gained ground. Investors flocked to streaming specialists during the lockdowns of 2020-21, but have lost interest as new subscribers have dried up. Netflix, which once talked of a potential market of 800m households, appears to have stalled at 220m and has seen its share price fall by 60% this year. On August 10th old Hollywood claimed a symbolic victory when Disney announced that it had overtaken Netflix, with 221m streaming subscriptions. That figure double-counts subscribers to Disney’s various services, and ignores the fact that many are in low-paying countries like India. But Disney’s success has banished any doubt that ageing studios can play the streaming game.


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