Welcome to the Game of Thrones Economy
As Game of Thrones‘ seventh and penultimate season gets underway, we’re looking at how the series has affected the world outside of Westeros and Essos. The show surpassed the Sopranos in 2014 to become the most popular series ever on HBO. But reach its extends beyond HBO subscriptions. From swag to wine to tourism dollars, GoT fans have fueled a few different cottage industries on the backs of the original novels.
First, the swag. It doesn’t stop at the HBO store. The internet abounds with GoT products (some licensed by the network, some likely not). Amazon and Etsy both have thousands of items available. From the customizable mug that says “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things”; to the handmade House Stark drinking horn; to a whole series of all-out costumes.
Then there’s the stuff you put in the drinking horn. Ommegang Brewery partnered with HBO to produce beer inspired by the Emmy award-winning show. Ommegang’s Allison Capozza tells Fortune that the 14,000 cases in the brewery’s first batch of a beer called Iron Throne Blonde Ale released in the Spring of 2013, “sold out like lightning.” The latest batch, called Bend the Knee Golden Ale, after a common refrain on a show about kingdoms, was twice as large as the first and also sold out after its release this spring.
Vintage Wine Estates sells GoT-inspired wines, including a chardonnay, red wine blend, and cabernet sauvignon. The vintners declined to provide Fortune with sales figures due to contractual reasons. But since shipping began in March, “We have been pleased by the robust response that continues to build,” says Hannah Perkins, a spokeswoman for the brand.
But some GoT fans aren’t satisfied by a mere glass of vino, many are also visiting the locations where the show was filmed. Iceland, which is “beyond the wall” in the show, has reported a major spike in tourism since the program’s start, tourism group Promote Iceland told CNBC. Morocco, too, where Yunkai and Astapor were filmed, has also become a pilgrimage destination for HBO watchers. Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Morocco, Croatia, Malta, and Scotland all have similar stories.
Production of the show is pricey: It’s estimated to be the third most expensive show of all time, with an average per-show budget of $6 million. Dubrovnik, Croatia’s top vacation city, and the setting of GoT’s King’s Landing, has profited by hosting the crew itself—bringing in money by providing transportation, hotels, and more by hosting production staffers. The tourism uptick hasn’t hurt either: Croatia’s economy depends almost entirely on the industry.
To lure the film crews, Northern Ireland Screen agency has invested $18.28 million so far in the show. The result, the agency says, is that GoT has brought more than $224 million to the area in the form of filming expenses, tourism, and more.
And finally, there’s the book industry, where the current mania got its start. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has had a dramatic increase in sales since the launch of the series, has been a boon to publisher Random House. Books sales tend to spike during pivotal episodes, according to Nielson’s BookScan. (This may be because the TV show spurs the audience to try to read ahead of the show’s timeline, BookScan says.) Before the TV series began in 2011, the books had sold about five million copies to date. During the 2011-2012 season alone, A Song of Ice and Fire sold nine million copies.