Beware an Audience Scorned

Disclaimer: If you have not seen the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, do not read this article or watch the video at the end.

Killing off major characters is a well-used plot device for any television show. It pulls the audience out of their comfort zone, makes them discuss the show with all their friends and forces them to seek closure by reliving the moment. Ultimately, even though these characters are not real, it strengthens the audience’s relationship with the show. But Game of Thrones may be learning an interesting lesson after their latest gratuitous death!

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I have never watched Game of Thrones. It certainly isn’t for lack of trying, it is just for lack of cable television. But from what I hear, the television show is famed for three things; gruesome content, nudity and intense fans. However, a development in the latest episode resulted in the death Oberyn as he was fighting aptly-named ‘The Mountain’ in combat trying to get him to confess to the murder of his sister and her two children. As you do.

Oberyn was a much loved character in the show and his surprising unjust death has left the shows many fans reeling. Usually this devastation results in many angry posts on discussion boards aimed at the show’s creators, but some fans have gone a little further to express their upset at this plot twist.

YouTuber ‘Ozzy Man’, a 28 year old university student from Perth, has been propelled forward by this audience discontent and released an alternate ending video on his channel. Titled Oberyn vs Mountain (The Denial Version), the video provides a much more convivial ending to the recent episode allowing Oberyn to win the fight and live out his own happy ending. Clearly showing the discontent with the real ending to this episode, since the video was uploaded on Wednesday it has received over 6,336,000 views. You can check out the video below:

So what does this have to do with marketing? All shows use this thematic device. Why is Game of Thrones any different?

The creator of this video was interviewed after it became a viral success and he brought up a valid point. Oberyn’s death is not the first time a much-loved character is killed off in the series and recently there have been quite a few favourites who have been killed off in increasingly gruesome manners. This has brought the viral video’s creator to wonder whether there is a tipping point. A point at which the series will lose many ‘at risk’ viewers.

There are reasons why viewers tune into television shows. Whether they are specific characters, actors, themes or content, it is these elements which are strengthening their relationship to the show. Once these strengthening elements are removed the audience’s relationship can suffer. And once this relationship suffers, other shows may look more appealing and ‘at risk’ viewers will desert for a more pleasing show.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Game of Thrones after the incredibly disappointed reaction from audiences. Will their relationship with the show be strong enough to overcome this barrier? Will they switch over to The Voice? Only time will tell.

It certainly does give pause for thought. There is increasing competition in the television industry from new shows that are popping up on new channels every day and especially with the increasing prominence of ‘on demand’ services allowing consumers to watch any show whenever they like.

Maybe ensuring that an audience’s relationship remains intact is increasingly necessary in this overcrowded market to stop them defecting to another easily accessible competitor?

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