HBO, Game of Thrones and lessons for Ja from Northern Ireland

Monday, June 23, 2014

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We are not surprised to learn that many Jamaicans watch the HBO fantasy drama series Game of Thrones.

It is one of those television shows that simply hooks viewers with not just excellent acting, but unpredictable twists of fate and absolutely astounding cinematography.

But even as we admire all that, we can't help but comment on the fact that Game of Thrones has given an economic boost to Northern Ireland, where a majority of the series is filmed, both in natural settings and in Belfast's Titanic Studios.

A report from the Associated Press tells us that, since the pilot episode began filming in 2009, Game of Thrones has fostered a film industry in Northern Ireland that has caught the eye of other Hollywood productions.

Just as important, the show has given Northern Ireland's tourism industry a shot in the arm as thousands of fans from around the world have been visiting the filming locations. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II, the Associated Press reported, was scheduled to visit the studio sets yesterday.

The Nielson Company, using prime time numbers, has reported that the show's season four finalé two Sunday nights ago was watched by 7.09 million viewers in the United States alone.

Those are not numbers to sneeze at, and Northern Ireland, which lured the show's producers with financial incentives, is milking the publicity for all it's worth.

The country's tourism authorities are banking on the show's global popularity to increase visitor numbers to more than two million annually by 2016.

According to the AP report, coach operators, using some of the show's most iconic scenery, "have created Game of Thrones tours for which demand hit a record as the show reached its season finalé this month".

In addition to tourism, the show has created direct employment for local workers, and the local economy has benefited greatly as HBO is estimated to have spent just over £87 million in the country during the production phase.

By ensuring that HBO continues to film the show in Northern Ireland, the Government is creating the opportunity for the development of a skills base in the film industry — a skills base that will be attractive to other producers because of the experience they have gained working with a highly successful show produced by one of the world's top cable and satellite television networks.

Another upshot is that the show paints a good image of Northern Ireland, a country that, like Jamaica, has had tragic experiences with political violence.

In times past, Jamaica was a prime location for major Hollywood films. At that time, we did a good job of promoting the island as such, earning much-needed revenue in the process.

Today, Jamaica no longer benefits from that very lucrative business, despite the fact that the country is blessed with scenery that is just as breathtaking as anywhere else.

Northern Ireland's relationship with HBO offers a lesson to Jamaica. Here's hoping the authorities here will take something from it. We note and commend Flow's efforts here to promote the series.




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