'Game of Thrones' or Raptors? Viewers face tough choice this Sunday
Actress Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen on 'Game of Thrones,' and Toronto Raptors player Kawhi Leonard are seen in this composite image.
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 17, 2019 3:23PM EDT
TORONTO -- As a "Game of Thrones" fanatic who is also a devoted Toronto Raptors fan, Oriana Di Nucci finds herself weighing the pros and cons of what to watch this Sunday when the fantasy saga concludes at the same time her beloved team hosts its first home game of the NBA Eastern Conference final.
Despite the ubiquity of on-demand viewing, watching event programming live on a traditional television is still the preferred mode to experience mammoth meme-able moments, says the pop culture junkie. But she is still kicking herself for switching to "Game of Thrones" last Sunday just before Kawhi Leonard scored an astonishing buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the playoffs' second round.
This Sunday will feature a similar double-draw, when the most critical moments of the Raptors' Game 3 will almost certainly overlap with the first half-hour or so of the "Game of Thrones" 80-minute finale.
But Game 3 is a much different proposition than a deciding Game 7, says Di Nucci, who will risk missing another Raptor moment to watch "Game of Thrones" live with her family.
"I'm really bad at accidentally spoiling things a lot. It's not good for me and my friends who hadn't watched it yet," she explains, expecting both social media and traditional media to be awash with GoT details Sunday night and Monday morning.
Despite pronouncements that event television is dead, Di Nucci believes the fear-of-missing-out drives many to the tube, often with friends and family in tow.
And anyway, the advent of time-shifting and on-demand viewing has addressed remote control battles that would have split family viewing just a few years ago, adds sports fan Keith Morris.
"I'm in my thirties and I remember back then Dad would have been downstairs watching the game and somebody else that was into the show would have been upstairs," he says, noting screens are also more likely to run simultaneously in the same room.
"But now with technology you can kind of do it all."
This Sunday, Morris will be at his friend's condo with about 10 others for what's primarily considered a GoT finale party. But the game will be on, and he expects most guests to trickle in during the second quarter.
It'll be especially hard to avoid Raptors fever when they return home Sunday, even with a "Game of Thrones" finale, he predicts.
"The city is definitely on fire. We have a chance this year," says the Missouri-born Morris, also devoted to watching the St. Louis Blues chase the NHL's Stanley Cup.
Raptors fan Heba Habib of Pickering, Ont., says the choice isn't hard for her, since Crave makes "Game of Thrones" available as soon as it airs on HBO at 9 p.m. ET. Generally speaking, she ignores linear broadcast.
"I've never really watched television live. I normally watch on-demand, or I watch whenever I have the time. It's only live games that I normally watch (live)," says Habib, who'll join a dozen friends to watch Sunday's game, followed by "Game of Thrones."
She says her parents will stay home to focus on the game.
Indeed, the proliferation of mass media has actually made the notion of mass consumption less and less the reality, says York University film professor John McCullough.
"That's the contradictory thing," he chuckles. "It seems we have more mass media at our disposal nowadays but in fact the way that mass media (and) content is produced is actually (encouraging) fragmented audiences."
That was certainly the case last week for Di Nucci, who watched the Raptors with her sister and parents on the living room TV until she and her father commandeered the set for "Game of Thrones."
Her mom and sister were relegated to an upstairs bedroom to finish the game between the Raptors and visiting Philadelphia 76ers. Di Nucci soon realized that was a mistake "based on their yelling and running around."
"The timing was not great, right?"@ sighs the 21-year-old.
"I wish I saw Kawhi's last shot live. I wish I saw it in the moment, but it happens. It happens. I'll be there for the next one. I'll be there for the next big win."
Bell Media says "Game of Thrones" has been averaging 2.5 million viewers each week in its Sunday 9 p.m. ET time slot, with no indication that fans delayed viewing habits for the Raptors.
Sportsnet says last Sunday's Game 7 attracted an average audience of 2.2 million viewers, a big jump over a typical game. A peak audience of 3.8 million tuned in to catch Leonard's buzzer-beater.
If Di Nucci had another screen available at the time, she expects she would have caught Leonard's shot but she was using her phone to text a friend during "Game of Thrones," which was being streamed to the television via her laptop.
There's no escaping spoilers when a popular entertainment juggernaut captivates social media, says Meg Wheeler of Toronto. For that reason, "Game of Thrones" trumps all viewing, and did so last Sunday when she convinced her partner to switch from Game 7 to watch the series live.
"We are both so active on Twitter that we know it'll get spoiled if we don't watch it live," says the 28-year-old, admitting to some regret for missing Leonard's shot.
"I don't feel it was that big of a deal -- I've seen it now so many times replayed -- but there is something special about seeing it happen live. It's one of those things where you would remember where you were when it happened."
Habib, meanwhile, has worked out key house rules for watching a delayed "Game of Thrones": "Nobody can go on social media."
"We're good. As long as it's not a blowout, we will always watch Raptors first," she says.
Being respectful is key, adds Morris, citing past experience in asserting the difficulty of reading online leaks without spoiling the fun for others.
"If they're searching through Twitter or people are live tweeting and they're reading it and they're getting spoiled, you can kind of read on their face what's going on," he says.
"That's when we decided to say: 'Everyone put your phones on the table and turn them over and for 20 minutes let's just watch the rest of this game and be present in this Toronto moment."'