Friday, August 04, 2017


I said to Clare, "Game of Thrones has got rather boring since they decimated all the extended families. When it was the Starks vs. the Lannisters, you could identify with all the intra- and inter-family personal dynamics."

But I was wrong, Series 7 is just as gripping as ever. Grown up Machiavellian realpolitik.

Apart from really sharp screen-writing, brilliant plotting, fantastic locations and the mega-budget to pay for it all, one secret of their success is the continuity of actors. How would you handle a situation where actors playing Cersei, Tyrion, Jon, Jaime or Sansa decided to skip the next series?

Peter Dinklage plays Tyrion Lannister

Must enormously increase their bargaining power. What joy for their agents.


The BBC is in trouble, not just for gender differences in pay but also for the sheer amount paid to their top staff. Radio presenter Chris Evans gets paid more than £2.2 million a year to present the breakfast show on Radio 2, which draws nine million listeners.

It's well-known in economics that the bulk of the economic value associated with a superstar ends up accruing to the talent themselves. Top footballers, rock stars and, yes, presenters get paid stupendous fees.

The reason is that they own a monopoly on their personal skills and typically engage in an auction process (via their agents) which allows them to identify and achieve their monopoly market value.

No competition, you see. But more on this in a moment.

With the BBC it's more complicated as they are a monopoly buyer (to a first approximation) in the UK entertainment market. If you want a truly mass audience, the BBC can potentially deliver it in a way that ITV, Channel 4 or Sky can't.

In theory, this should give the BBC monopsony power - lowering the price it has to pay for stars.

But in practice, the star will always win. The BBC cares most about the marginal, additional audience a top star can attract over the next best alternative. It's prepared to pay a hefty marginal price for that additional audience .. and since the absolute number of stars is not that large, the premium doesn't really register on its bloated budget.

Hence Chris Evans.


But technology has a way of undermining these simple truths. Game of Thrones is scripted and recorded. A lot already gets done in post-production. Soon it would not be hard to lose the estimable Peter Dinklage and hire a similarly sized actor. Use the latest AI to restore Mr Dinklage's face and voice and you've saved, no doubt, a shedload of money - and perhaps the series, if Mr D. was otherwise going to be a no-show.

I understand there's plenty of discussion around copyright for personal avatars and digital representations in Hollywood right now.

How is that going, I wonder?

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