Game of Thrones mobile

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, and opinionated about something that makes us very happy…or fills us with indescribable rage. In this edition: AT&T’s suggestion to recut Game of Thrones episodes.)

This morning, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spoke at J.P. Morgan’s Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference and offered his thoughts about the future of mobile entertainment in the wake of AT&T’s pending acquisition of Time Warner. Most notably, he had some ideas about re-editing content to better optimize it for a mobile-using audience. “Think about things like Game of Thrones,” he said. “In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode.”

For the AT&T CEO, allow me to provide an acronym of my own: GTFO.

Variety provided the quotes about Game of Thrones mobile episodes from Stephenson. I’m saddened that we’ve reached a time in our culture where an idea like this – and to be clear, at this stage it’s nothing more than an idea – could be suggested and have any credence at all with those making decisions about how we consume content. But here we are, and in case it isn’t immediately obvious to you, I’ll tell you why this idea is almost incomprehensibly stupid.

Game of Thrones is one of the best television shows of the modern era. It’s not perfect, but it’s a staggeringly adept adaptation of a book series that was purposefully designed to be unfilmable, and showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss somehow found a way to bring George R.R. Martin’s imaginative fantasy world to life.

Who the fuck is this guy to think he – or anyone, for that matter – could tell this story any better? He’s a telecommunications CEO, not a creative professional. He suggests they should “let the content geniuses and creative geniuses think about this, but curate the content uniquely for a mobile environment.” But think of Game of Thrones like a parade float for a second. Sure, you can strip away all of the elaborate decorations, signs, and props, but then you’d just be left with a chassis and four wheels. That might be functional, but at that point you’ve missed the entire point of having a parade float in the first place. No “content genius” could do the show justice by condensing it into smaller chunks.

The idea of recutting Game of Thrones mobile runtimes down to 20-minute episodes in order to “optimize” it for mobile viewing is a slap in the face to everyone involved in the making of this series. Reading between the lines, it’s clear exactly what Stephenson thinks about AT&T audiences: they’re too dim-witted and too easily distracted to be able to keep up with the story in its true form, so he wants to dumb it down and speed things along for them.

Keep in mind that a 20-minute episode would remove two-thirds of the content from any given episode. This would essentially turn Game of Thrones into a glorified YouTube recap video. Those are fine if they’re being used as a refresher before you start a new season or something like that, but it’s idiotic to consider them a replacement for actually watching the show.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a generation raised on mobile devices doesn’t give a shit about story, doesn’t care about things like subtlety or nuance, and is physically incapable of following a long-form storytelling arc across multiple seasons. If that’s truly the case, the future of entertainment as we know it is bleaker than I ever thought possible. Maybe I’m naive, but I have to believe audiences care more about story than pure convenience. Because if convenience has become the most important element of entertainment, we just took a giant step toward the dystopian future depicted in Pixar’s WALL-E.

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