HBO Reportedly Spent Over $30 Million on Axed 'Game of Thrones' Spinoff Pilot

Former WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt discussed the decision to pull the plug on one 'Game of Thrones' spinoff and move forward with another.

Dragon skull from Game of Thrones touring exhibition.

A dragon skull pictured at the launch of the Game of Thrones touring exhibition at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

Dragon skull from Game of Thrones touring exhibition.

Hours before announcing a straight-to-series order for the Game of Thrones prequel House of the DragonHBO buried an untitled GoT spinoff starring Naomi Watts, even after the pilot episode was filmed. 

Former WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt spoke with James Andrew Miller for his latest book, Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, about pulling the plug on one failed show and its incredibly expensive pilot, while also moving forward with another spinoff.

“They had spent over $30 million on a Game of Thrones prequel pilot when I got there,” Greenblatt said, perEntertainment Weekly. “And when I saw a cut of it in a few months after I arrived, I said to [HBO chief content officer] Casey [Bloys], ‘this just doesn’t work and I don’t think it delivers on the premise of the original series.’ And he didn’t disagree, which actually was a relief. So we unfortunately decided to pull the plug on it. There was enormous pressure to get it right and I don’t think it would have worked.”

While it’s impossible to determine what about the untitled spinoff didn’t work, it’s easy to see why HBO greenlit House of the Dragon. The latter already has source material in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood to work with. If the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones taught us anything, it’s that the show is best suited working off text that already exists, instead of venturing into the great unknown. Also, House of the Dragon features dragons, which could easily draw fans of the action elements of the original series. 

“I’m the one who encouraged Casey to green-light it to series. I said, ‘let’s not risk $30 million on a pilot.’ You can’t spend $30 million on a pilot and then not pick it up. So I said, ‘let’s not make a pilot. Let’s get a great series that we feel good about, and just make it. Or not,’” Greenblatt said. “They made the first pilot because they were protecting their own downside and protecting that brand, which I understand, but it was critical that we somehow continue that franchise and move quickly, which meant getting the series into production asap.”

According to E! Online, Martin’s agent Paul Haas revealed in Miller’s new book that George R. R. Martin urged former HBO CEO Richard Plepler to extend Thrones to 10 seasons, and grew concerned about the direction of the series after Season 5. However, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss were understandably “tired” of the commitment, and wanted to move on and pursue other interests.  

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas said, adding of Benioff and Weiss, “George knows where the story goes. He started saying, ‘You’re not following my template.’” 

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