‘Game of Thrones’: Why it might be premiering later this year

'Game of Thrones' has often debuted sometime in April, but HBO's programming schedule might mean the show is being pushed back. The fact that HBO's most popular show doesn't debut in the fall is another sign of the waning popularity of the traditional September-to-May TV schedule.

Helen Sloane/HBO/AP
'Game of Thrones' stars Emilia Clarke.

Winter might be coming a little later this year. 

Based on new premiere dates released by HBO, some industry watchers are guessing that HBO’s hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones” might be premiering its new season later than usual.

“Thrones” usually debuts on the cable network sometime in April (though one season, its third, arrived extra-early, debuting on March 31). However, HBO has also announced when some of its other shows will debut, and so fans are thinking “Thrones” might be pushed back to make room for these other shows. HBO knows the program will have an audience, after all.

HBO’s show “Vinyl,” which is executive-produced by director Martin Scorsese and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and centers on a record label president in the 1970s, will debut on Feb. 14. It will air on Sundays at 9 p.m., traditionally  the “Thrones” timeslot, but HBO has reportedly said “Vinyl” will run for 10 episodes like many of its other shows, through April 17. It would be odd for the network to switch “Vinyl” to a new time slot for one or two weeks, especially if executives are no doubt hoping the new show will find an audience. 

Meanwhile, half-hour comedies “Girls” and “Togetherness” are reportedly returning the week after “Vinyl” debuts and will air on Sundays, with "Girls" leading at 10 p.m., so it doesn’t look like HBO would be considering a move to 10 p.m. for “Thrones.” 

The popularity of HBO, other cable networks, and streaming services means the September-to-May TV schedule model is increasingly irrelevant. A cable channel like HBO embraces a year-round programming schedule – for example, HBO saved one of its most high-profile shows, “True Blood,” for the summer in years past, with the show avoiding the traditional network fall-to-spring schedule for "True" altogether. The HBO show “The Leftovers” returned this fall, with the program having debuted earlier this month, but “Leftovers” is no more important to the network’s lineup than any other show. In fact, “Thrones” could currently be called the crown jewel of the network, with the fantasy drama having become HBO’s most popular program of all time.

Other cable networks and streaming services have also embraced this year-round model. Showtime debuted the new season of its drama “Penny Dreadful” this past May and aired the rest of the episodes during the summer. Netflix has released a new season of its drama “House of Cards” in February for the past few years and debuted the first season of its comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which was co-created by Tina Fey, this past March.

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