Trigger Warning: Violence, Fire, and Death
“Have you seen the new Game of Thrones trailer? It was just released, and the new season looks AMAZING! I want to watch it NOW!” Have you ever watched a trailer for a television show that made you want to watch it immediately? Have you ever fallen victim to hype? Hype is the generation of interest and excitement through the use of promotion. It is also a tool at the disposal of broadcasters that be used to help the broadcaster maintain control over flow in the era of post-network television. The newest Game of Thrones trailer is a perfect example of an action-packed promotion that builds anticipation for highly followed series.
Raymond Williams describes flow as the order in which television programs, which he considers to be events, are consumed. In chapter four of Television, “Programming, Distribution, and Flow”, Williams mentions that the true program is the “sequence or set of alternative sequences of these and other similar events.” While during the network era this flow was a sequence determined by the broadcaster, In the post-network era with the advent of home recording and on-demand television, alternative sequences mentioned by Williams have become more prevalent. Amanda Lotz notes in chapter one, “Understanding Television in the Beginning of the Post-Network Era”, of her work The Television Will Be Revolutionized that “the continuous infiltration of control devices into television use has greatly disrupted the flow as […] being determined by someone other than the individual viewer”, decentralized the control of flow and giving more control of flow to the audience.
The user-governed flow of the post-network era presents a challenge to broadcasters, who wants audiences to follow their vision of flow. In order for broadcasters to persuade audiences to follow the flow that the broadcasters want, broadcasters need tools to influence audiences in the post-network era. This where hype comes in. But how does hype help broadcasters?
Most broadcasters, including HBO, have a specific goal in mind: having as many viewers watch the series live as possible, especially the series premier. In order to ensure that this happens, the broadcaster tries to generate hype for the series. Broadcasters can sustain potential viewer interest through the use of a successful multi-media marketing campaign between seasons. This includes the use of magazine articles, promotional images distributed through print and the internet, and trailers. In fact, these hype generating promotions are ultimately a part of the intended flow of the series because they guide audience members to experience the anticipation that the broadcasters want them to feel.
The newest Game of Thrones trailer is a hype volcano. Almost every scene featured in the trailer is only a few seconds long, but contains action, important characters, or prominent imagery. Because of theses qualities, each scene becomes a short, but intense tease for the viewer at the upcoming season, giving glimpse to battles and plot developments long awaited by loyal fans, and also a broad overview that showcases the series’s acclaim to newcomers of the series. Either way, the scenes in the trailer instill a sense of excitement and anticipation in the viewer, which is exactly how the broadcaster wants the viewer to feel.
The timing of the trailer is also critical. With the next season less than month away, this newest trailer leaves a sense wanting fresh in the minds of the audience members which the broadcaster hopes will tide them over until the next season starts. The timing of the trailers release in comparison to other Game of Thrones trailers is also important. With the release of the other trailers in March and May, it can be seen that the amount of promotion increases as the series premier approaches. This has the intended affect of gradually increasing hype so that the hype peaks at the series premier. The timing of trailers is an crucial part of how broadcasters maintain flow and generate hype while the series is off air.
The most important part of the trailer comes at the end: #winterishere. Discussion between audience members become the series airs is the most important part of generating hype and maintaining flow. The trailer and its corresponding hashtag have already been retweeted and shared by thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook. Fan discussion on social media increases interest exponentially. Furthermore, it is no mistake that this trailer was posted to Youtube, in addition to being aired on HBO, as it is a way of reaching a much broader, modern audience. Additionally, fan analyses and breakdowns of the trailer are being posted this moment to Youtube, Reddit threads, Tumblr posts, and countless fan discussion boards. Ironically, the viewers are doing the broadcasters work for them, by fueling the hype that the broadcasters need for their vision of the series’s flow. However, the broadcaster is not totally in control, because there is still criticism and feedback from the viewers that the broadcasters must deal with accordingly. With use of hype, the development of vision can be a collaborative effort between the audience and the broadcaster, as opposed to the audience driven flow determination so common in the post-network era.
- How effective is promotional marketing in generating hype and determining the flow of a television series?
- How could new technologies, such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality affect flow of future television programs, if at all?
- When a series ends, does the flow of the series stop?
Your thoughts, criticisms, and comments, are much appreciated below
- Raymond Williams, Television, Chapter 4, “Programming, Distribution, and Flow”
- Amanda Lotz, The Television Will Be Revolutionized, Chapter 1 “Understanding Television at the Beginning of the Post-Network Era”