Game of Thrones and economics

I bought. I saw. I wept. After spending a full 5€ on a Sky TV Ticket trial and setting myself the challenge of a lifetime, I am here to announce that I have watched all eight seasons of Game of Thrones within just four weeks (and I even have seven days left). To this day I am surprised that I wasn't spoilered (at least not too much, for some reason I even thought Khal Drogo was going to return???) but in retrospect, I wish someone would've told me to save my time and stop watching after season 6. Because while the first few seasons were amazing (despite a smaller budget) the last two seasons came with a number of disappointments. There is an abundance of fan theories and explanations as to why the ending was so disappointing, but maybe economics can help explain part of the reason why.

Satisfying an entire fandom after years and years of watching (or in other cases reading) is almost impossible. Whether it's Marvel's Endgame or Game of Thrones, regardless of what you do there will be critics. In economics-world, this conflict of interest is illustrated with the principal-agent problem. Mostly applied in the context of firms, the principal is the one in ownership of the firm and most interested in high profits, the agents are the workers of the firm. They have (to some extent) control over how profitable the firm will be by exercising their desired level of effort during their work. It's called the principal-agent problem because the actions of the workers cannot be controlled by the principal. The owners of the firm would like the workers to put in 100% effort so that the firm maximizes profits but (watch out, assumption alert) workers don't care about the firm's profits, only about their salaries. An entire area of economics is dedicated to resolving this problem and finding out how to effectively incentivize workers so that the firm maximizes its profits. So, what on earth does this have to do with Game of Thrones?

In this scenario, we - the audience - are the principal and the writers of GoT are the agents (let's keep George out of this equation for now). Presumably, we are far more invested in the outcome of the show, the fates of our characters and a satisfying ending than the writers of the show. The writers know they will be paid for their work one way or another, even better they already have their next gig lined up. We have different preferences, the audience wants a well-written, smart and thoughtful ending whereas the writers want to move on to their next project. This is how Starbucks-cups in crucial scenes and awkward dialogues happen. Likely, the writers' incentives have changed over time, during the first few seasons they had to prove themselves and make sure the show gets renewed for another season, but once you know this is the end why would you put in some extra effort to make it a good one? 

Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a way for fans to have more of a say in this issue. While many true believers started a petition to have the final season re-done, this is unlikely to happen. The backlash over the last season could impact the writers' future employment (especially on the Star Wars movies) but again how much power do we really have here.

The only thing left to do is indulge in fan-theories about alternative endings and Youtube videos explaining what was wrong with the ending scene by scene. The only other solution I can come up with is either to only have ultra-fans write these shows or give the original authors of the books a veto, but I don't think GoT would have happened under these conditions.

No comments:

Post a Comment