Ouch! HBO chief takes sideswipe at Belfast

‘Game of Thrones’ is HBO’s most watched show with an average gross audience of 18.4m

Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones: Visitor attractions for fans of the show promoted by Tourism Ireland  include tours of key locations such as for Winterfell or Pyke.  HBO publicity shot.

Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones: Visitor attractions for fans of the show promoted by Tourism Ireland include tours of key locations such as for Winterfell or Pyke. HBO publicity shot.

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 01:10

The marketing coup which saw Tourism Ireland do a deal with US cable channel HBO whereby the filming of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland could be leveraged to promote tourism there has generated massive awareness since its launch in April.

More than one million clicks, comments and shares have been logged for the colourful smart-looking campaign, according to Tourism Ireland, and the many themed attractions.

Game of Thrones is HBO’s most watched show with an average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers across all platforms. Visitor attractions for fans of the show promoted by the tourism body include tours of key locations – visit Winterfell (Strangford Lough) or the mysterious Pyke (Ballintoy) – as well as a Game of Thrones exhibition in Belfast.

However the agency can’t have been best pleased with the comments last week from HBO’s president of programming, Michael Lombardo, in an interview with US online culture magazine Vulture.com, where he suggested that maybe Belfast might not be the most attractive place to spend time. “Belfast is not the most cosmopolitan of cities to spend half of the year,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of future filming, now that George RR Martin has said he will write more Game of Thrones books, he said “I just hope [showunners] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] are still game. It’s a little bit of a personal challenge I don’t think they contemplated when we initially found our location in Belfast, what that meant for them personally. I don’t think they have a hard time, but the good news is work keeps them busy, let’s just say that.”

Ouch.

On Tuesday, the day of the screening of the final episode in series four, Lombardo apologised for any offence, saying he didn’t intend his remarks to be interpreted as being critical of Belfast and the challenge for the showrunners was not related to the place, more about being away for so long from family.

Game of Thrones could not have become the show it is today without the incredible partnership between HBO and Belfast,” Lombardo said.

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