TV critics hoping to easily review Game of Thrones season 7 before its premiere are out of luck.
In a move that’s singularly unique in the industry, HBO will not make screeners of any episodes of the fantasy hit’s eagerly anticipated upcoming season available to the press in advance, EW has learned.
Networks normally always give critics episodes — often multiple episodes — of scripted shows weeks before their on-air premieres, plus make the remainder of the season available in private online screening rooms about a week before each airs (for example, HBO sent critics six of the seven episodes in The Leftovers recent final season in advance of the first episode’s debut).
But two years ago, the first four episodes of Thrones season 5 were leaked onto BitTorrent from DVD screeners that were sent to press and industry insiders weeks before the show’s premiere. Thrones is HBO’s most popular series of all time, the most expensive show on television, the world’s most illegally downloaded series, and an international phenomenon — so any episodes leaking is a rather big deal. The next year, HBO denied critics screeners for the first time — a perhaps unprecedented move for a drama series. In addition to leak fears, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss generally prefer to keep each season’s storyline as secret as possible.
Still, some critics will likely be able to review one episode this year if Game of Thrones has its usual live, red carpet premiere event in a major city. No event has yet been formally announced, but any critics attending the traditional star-filled, pre-premiere screening would presumably be able to write reviews from that.
As for Game of Thrones‘ eventual eighth and final season … well, it’s safe to assume critics have a snowball’s chance in Essos of getting screeners for that one either.