Game of Thrones Goes FTA for Grand Finale

Signalling Sky’s new-found ambitions for Prime, the free-to-air channel will strip the final season of Game of Thrones in primetime from May 12.

The first five episodes will air 9.30 nightly, culminating in the sixth and final episode on May 20 — the same day it screens globally.

This is an unprecedented move for Sky/Prime, and shows how determined new CEO Martin Stewart is to reinvent Prime as a relevant channel after years of neglect because of bottom-line bookkeeping.

For too long its programming has been undermined by a middlebrow mix of predominantly second-tier UK and US content.

With Game of Thrones building to a ratings crescendo, this is a chance for Sky to broaden sampling of the channel like rarely before.

Of course, it would help if Sky also made Prime HD on Freeview — GoT will lose much of its appeal in SD on FTA Prime.

Still, it’s a masterstroke made easier by Sky no longer charging a separate fee for SoHo, which GoT helped to launch, if you subscribe to the movie or sports packages.

And even those who do pay the SoHo or Neon sub are unlikely to complain given the FOMO by not seeing each new episode ASAP (it airs 1.00 Mondays on SoHo and streams soon after on Neon).

Prime has run previous seasons of GoT months after its SoHo/Neon premieres, and they’ve never moved the ratings needle.

But given the buzz about the final season, there’s likely to be much more interest from those who haven’t already seen the latest season, which has broken ratings records on SoHo.

Even if the ratings don’t reward the gambit, Prime’s profile will benefit immensely ahead of the channel reinventing itself.

Signs of change include series like Madame Secretary and Bull being bumped to SkyGo and the next season of QI — the first not to be fronted by Stephen Fry — soon to have its premiere on BBC UKTV.

Meanwhile, this season of GoT has been dogged by streaming issues on Neon and Monday’s episode being all but unwatchable because of filming techniques, artistic choices and compression compromises.

For the best way to view GoT on your TV, see these guides at C|Net, Sydney Morning Herald, Games Radar and The Verge.

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4 Responses to “Game of Thrones Goes FTA for Grand Finale”

  1. This “gesture” would be only relevant if Prime were to make free to air HD to show GoT in its full magnificence!

  2. This may be the start of things to come. I noticed on Freeview Plus on demand there are some entries for some Prime shows – they don’t actually work at the moment but here’s hoping they are joining the other broadcasters and going HD, too.

  3. I’m wondering the same. Are there any transmission capacity issues with Prime switching on the Freeview HD button? I know Sky’s HD capacity is maxed out (for the time being at least), but are the Freeview transmissions affected in a similar way?

  4. Rosco, to answer your question: No, there is plenty of bandwidth on Freeview Terrestrial (UHF), they just need to pay for it, or use the chunk of spectrum they already have. Hopefully, the new man at the helm will make it happen.

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