The new season of Game of Thrones starts April 24, and an avalanche of Thrones-dedicated fan content is likely to land the following day. With a rabid, and tech-savvy, fan base, the HBO series has what’s likely the most vibrant podcasts of any show, analyzing its every move. When comedians Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott launched Boars, Gore and Swords in 2011, Scott says there were perhaps three Game of Thrones podcasts in existence. These days, iTunes offers around 70, including Tower of Babble, A Cast of Kings and Game of Microphones. “It’s crazy how far podcasts have come in the last five years,” says Scott. Such an active fan base is something of a dream come true for series (and network) brass. HBO did not make its execs available to talk about Game of Thrones fan media; nor did it free up the producers. But while show leaders enjoy dabbling in fan sites and podcasts for recaps, many are wary of letting them influence the creative process.
Ronald D. Moore, showrunner on Outlander, has nothing against podcasts—in fact, he hosts one dedicated to his Starz drama. Yet he warns his writers about getting too involved in the superfan stuff. “I tell them, this is not a democracy,” he says. “We’re not turning the show over to the fans.”
A ‘Cast of Ice and Fire
The Game of Thrones podcast universe is so rich that it can be divided into subsets; there are fawning fan shows and more critical ones; humorous and serious programs; ones that focus on the books more than the TV series; and vice-versa. Red Scott sought to launch a podcast to stay engaged with fans in between his stand-up performances, and Game of Thrones felt like a smart topic. “It seemed like a nerdier audience that was more willing to go find stuff on their phones and computers,” he says.
Elio Garcia launched Westeros.org in 1998 as a forum for fans of the George R.R. Martin books. Before the TV series premiered, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss posted on the site, asking fans for casting suggestions. Their visits subsided a short while later, says Garcia. “They couldn’t spend their time looking at what fans say about their show,” he says. “They didn’t want to be unduly influenced.”
Matt Murdick created Podcast Winterfell in 2008, and estimates there are as many as 100 Thrones podcasts today. He says a number of the podcasters previously produced entries dedicated to ABC drama Lost. “People scrambled to find something equal to that commitment of the mind,” he says.
Other series are well represented on iTunes and Stitcher; among them, House of Cards, Better Call Saul and Scandal. Jonathan Tropper, cocreator of Cinemax drama Banshee, enjoys listening to fan recaps. But, like many people running shows, he leaves it at that. “No matter how convincing their arguments are, it’s one person and one opinion—it’s not consensus,” he says. “It’s a dangerous road when you try to please your most vocal fans.”