Critics Denied Game of Thrones Season 7 Screeners Yet Again
Critics who are hoping to review some episodes of Game of Thrones season 7 early, and for fans who were maybe hoping to get a taste of the upcoming season via those reviews, are going to be mostly out of luck. HBO, in a decision that goes very much against standard industry practice, is not going to be sending out advanced screener links of Game of Thrones to critics for review purposes. They did the exact same thing last year with Season 6. This is borderline unheard of, but if any show can get away with it, it's Game of Thrones.
Entertainment Weekly broke the possibly bad news that Game of Thrones season 7 is pretty much going to be under lock and key until it airs. For most scripted shows, networks and streaming services pretty much always send out at least one episode, often multiple episodes, of the series to critics so that they can review it before the season starts airing. Similar to a movie, this is to help build (hopefully) positive buzz. In the case of Game of Thrones, does it really need the buzz at this point? It is one of the most rabidly consumed shows in the history of television. That being the case, sending out screeners may not be worth the risk.
A couple of years back, prior to the official release of Game of Thrones season 5, HBO had to deal with a very significant leak. After screeners were sent out to critics, the first four episodes of the hit fantasy series made their way online. HBO was understandably not happy about that. So, in order to avoid spoilers and leaks heading into Season 6, they denied critics any advanced episodes. And they are doing so again with Game of Thrones season 7, which is set to premiere on July 16. They just aren't going to risk sending out screeners this year as it didn't work against their favor last year. It may defy the logic of standard industry practice, but it makes sense in this particular situation.
In the world of movies, if a studio doesn't want to offer critics screenings of a movie, it is a bad sign. Last year, Fox waited until the absolute last second to allow critics to release their reviews of Independence Day: Resurgence, which wound up being a disastrously bad movie. So, it is possibly a reasonable thing to wonder if HBO is at all concerned about negative reviews for Game of Thrones season 7. That seems incredibly unlikely, though, especially considering that the spoilers/leaks seems like a much more reasonable explanation. But it is at least worth addressing, since that is something that comes up from time to time.
Those hoping to review an episode of Game of Thrones early, or those hoping to read a review, aren't totally out of luck. HBO will hold a premiere event for the show's first episode, which means that select critics will get to see at least the first episode of Game of Thrones season 7. The rest of us are just going to have to wait until next month to watch the penultimate season of the series. Assuming this strategy doesn't hurt the show at all, which it probably won't, we can safely bet that HBO will do the same for Game of Thrones' final season next year.