Game of Thrones fans who like knowing what may happen in an episode even before it airs are going to have to adjust to a new reality. Not only is the HBO series set to outstrip the book series that inspired it in season six, the premium network has decided not to send episodes to the press in advance.
“We’re not sending out press copies this year, anywhere in the world,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told EW. “There will be no copies for review.”
While it is standard practice for many TV studios to send episodes out to the press and industry insiders before they air so that they are able to write early reviews, HBO has decided to buck the trend. The decision isn’t entirely surprising, considering that HBO sent out the first four episodes of season five to members of the media, only to have the content leaked the day before the premiere. In the first 24 hours after becoming available, the episodes were downloaded 3.22 million times, according to Variety.
Secrecy is particularly important leading into season six, given the cliffhanger ending to season five. HBO has spent months toying with fans regarding the fate of Jon Snow, who (spoiler alert!) appeared to be mortally wounded after being stabbed repeatedly in the finale. Keeping that much-agonized-over information under wraps until the last possible minute is in the best interest of the network.
In spite of a move to a more secure screening system, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss encouraged network executives to remove the risk entirely, and they ultimately agreed. “It’s painful for Dan and David [when leaks happen],” Lombardo told EW. “When you have press copies, inevitably friends ask, ‘Can I see your copy?’ There are things that happen. We talked about the upsides and downsides. Some of the press are fans who might be disappointed, but they’ll understand.”
With Game of Thrones being one of the most popular shows in the world in terms of ratings — not to mention a critical darling — the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t need reviews to attract viewers. Fans are going to tune in to learn the fate of Snow and his fellow characters, whether or not they read a positive reaction to the episode beforehand.
Game of Thrones season six premieres on April 24 on HBO.