SoHo’s Game of Thrones Massacre More Shocking Than HBO’s

Monday’s “Red Wedding Massacre” on Game of Thrones was made more appalling by SoHo’s scant disregard for its subscribers.

The most dramatic event in this season of the premium drama channel’s flagship series was sullied by Sky promoting other attractions during the bloody sequence that lay waste to key characters of the past three seasons.

What insensitive decision-making went into promoting a dusty repeat of The Sopranos or the availability of iSky, with distracting graphics at the bottom of the screen, during this shattering turn of events — when nothing should have been allowed to penetrate the shock and horror that Game of Thrones fans who hadn’t read the books would have been feeling?

It was unthinkable treatment of a groundbreaking series — and of subscribers who pay a hefty premium to see it: more than $40 a month for other channels they don’t want; another $10 a month to actually receive SoHo; and if they want to watch it in HD, $10 more a month for an HD ticket.

To then tarnish SoHo’s jewel in the crown with the kind of promotion that drives people from the mindless din of free-to-air TV to the relative sanctuary of pay-TV beggars belief more than Robb Stark’s fate (above).

Of course, this is standard practice on SoHo, with hitherto the biggest casualty being Mad Men.

Sunday’s episode was another egregious example of how, just when we should be left to gently muse over what we’ve seen with an evocative song, in this case, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” playing over the closing credits, SoHo shrilly interrupts the mood to trumpet (ironically) the next night’s Game of Thrones.

That’s exactly the kind of reminder we don’t need.

This is a practice I’ve questioned ever since SoHo was launched and was staggered by Sky’s director of entertainment Travis Dunbar’s response when I originally quizzed him about it a year ago in a Q&A email:

Q: Given SoHo is a premium channel beloved by drama purists, why persist with interrupting programmes’ end credits, which invariably feature music relevant to what you’ve just watched, with promos for what’s coming up? Likewise, just as the third act’s about to culminate, the mood or tension is interrupted by a what’s-on-next alert. These are jarring, vulgar mood killers that on a channel, which in all other respects is the antithesis of dumbed down FTA TV, seem  a surprisingly crass and disrespectful form of promotion that’s redundant on a premium pay tier. Has there been a subscriber backlash to this? And are there any plans to soften its intrusiveness?

A: Honestly, I have had two anecdotal comments from people socially on that subject, and there have been a couple of complaints via Facebook or customer services but in six months no more than a handful.

We’ve responded to these by increasing the time it takes for these to come on air – initially it was a second or two but this has been pushed back to around five seconds – and where possible we have a ‘next week’ promo to ensure it’s relevant.

Our belief is that navigability and awareness are crucial for a channel such as SoHo which sits on a tier.

Some initial research shows that with a plethora of new drama, many subs still don’t know how to find the content they want; or what content is on at what time – unless they constantly revert to the EPG grid or find a Skywatch.

It is something of a trade-off, but we feel the best time to remind viewers of additional content coming up, is in the end-breaks of programming.

It can frustrate some, but we would argue that the type of content we are promoting in those end breaks is as equally compelling as the content they have just watched.

Essentially, poignant reminders of exclusive and compelling content is something we feel is a programming duty.

While subjective, I’d suggest the quality of the imagery, and the content we are promoting would set it apart from the dumbed-down content on other networks.

However, one irrefutable fact is that viewers nowadays are submerged in a digital world with a paradox of choice, yet content discovery is becoming increasingly difficult, especially on a platform with over 80 channels so ways to increase navigability is certainly something we are investigating further.

I didn’t publish the response at the time as SoHo was still relatively new and as Dunbar had the discernment, enterprise and ingenuity to develop SoHo, I was confident less intrusive alternatives to help viewers navigate channels would emerge.

Clearly, 12 months on and after last night’s debacle, they haven’t.

Dunbar’s “end breaks” argument may be relevant for Sky subscribers who don’t opt for SoHo.

But if you’re prepared to pay over the odds for such a service, you’ve already proved you’re keen to sort the wheat from the chaff — so chances are you’re smart enough to get your money’s worth by making sure you know what’s on each month.

In the meantime, Entertainment Weekly has published an excellent series of morning-after takes on season three’s penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, including a recap, and interviews with the showrunnersstars and author George RR Martin while New York magazine offered this explanation and this exiting cast member interview.

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One Response to “SoHo’s Game of Thrones Massacre More Shocking Than HBO’s”

  1. Welcome to the real world of crap TV presentation that we all have come to despise over the years but the programmers ignore our requests.

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