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Are fantasy TV shows the future of online media platforms?

The world of fantasy is seeing a whole new wave of love, excitement and interest as streaming services are steadily turning popular fantasy book series into TV shows and movies. 

Shows such as House of Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power have created an entirely new legion of fans, based on how the books have been represented on TV.

Kritter XD, a TikToker who is deeply invested in the Lord of The Rings and Wheel of Time fandoms, said: “Streaming services have a very good opportunity to put out fantasy shows because it feels like they have flexible run times and higher budgets.

“I think Game of Thrones really put fantasy into a mainstream position and made it a ‘cool’ thing to do. I love the new pairing streaming services and fantasy have come up with and I don’t see it going away anytime soon.”

However, the question remains whether fantasy shows will soon become the future and big money earners for online platforms.

While many new fans seem to enjoy the TV shows, ardent long-term fantasy fans tend to be more critical at times.

One point of contention is any deviation TV show writers create from the source material, whether it be to create more commercial value or simply because writers don’t believe that the source material would translate well on TV screens. 

Long-time fantasy lover and Londoner, Adi Aryan said: “ The choice to deter from the source material needs to be measured in terms of how and when they decide to deter from the source material.

Some franchises such as The Last Of Us have done it with great success while Rings of Power and The Witcher for example have done so with varying levels of success.

“I am not inherently against deterring from the books but it has to respect the core themes, nature of the characters and plot of the books.

“Moving away from the source material, to the point that the show becomes unrecognisable to long-term fans, proves to be a bad move from the studio, as it finds that the core fanbase no longer appreciates the nature of the adaptation.”

Case in point, the last three seasons of the Game of Thrones on HBO.

Londoner Georgia Jones*, 25, said: “I don’t have a problem with studios developing new themes separate from the books as long as the character traits and storyline are still kept in some sense similar to what the books say.”

The sudden interest streaming services have found in fantasy shows has been described by Aryan as fantasy shows being ‘cash cows’.

He added: “The fantasy genre has very strong fanbases, which will support any media being put out, even if they don’t quite like it.

“When a studio knows even if they put out rubbish shows, there will be a dedicated fanbase watching, it comes across as an easy slam dunk.

“We don’t have to look any further than the Star Wars universe which has been abusing the fanbase for years yet they come back for every second of it.

“So if there’s a dedicated fanbase of millions of people, all you need is a decent sized mainstream audience to tune in and you would be looking at profit numbers that no regular sitcom would be able to make.”

The expansion of the fantasy world isn’t just limited to adults.

With shows such as Netflix’s Wednesday, streaming services have been able to create a large fantasy fanbase among the younger generations too. 

Kritter XD said: “I think there has always been something out there for kids who are fantasy inclined such as Harry Potter, but it feels like there is more content out there now for children.

“These shows are being done very well and are being able to generate quite a lot of interest.”

Aryan added: “I hope that these shows introduce a younger audience to the fantasy genre.

“Wednesday truly adapted the TikTok culture and we now find ourselves with a character that is somehow funny and yet edgy enough for the more modern young adults and teenagers alike.

“Combined with the iconic dance sequence, it is a perfect tool for free marketing to a youth that loves to express itself on social media with short-form videos and dancing.”

Jones said: “Children have always had fantasy-based content available for them, whether it be in the form of comic books or stories about demons and heroes.

“It is interesting to see that a generation, who prefers to watch TV rather than read books is now able to also connect with similar fantasy storylines as the generations before them.”

Kritter XD said that she knows of family members who refused to watch the Lord of the Rings movies as they were coming out but years later budged into watching GoT to understand what the hype was. 

Aryan concluded: “In essence, fantasy is about escapism. Some people are more prepared to embrace the escapism in the form of wild storytelling and visuals of the creator’s imagination, while others would prefer more content grounded in reality.

“I believe most people do like fantasy, but they may not like the extremes of fantasy like Lord of the Rings. 

“Most people want someone they can relate to on screen – which is why I believe Spider-Man is often a fantasy character that brings in the most amount of fanfare and money to the industry.

“He lives in settings we can recognise and says things which we can understand. People wouldn’t mind dipping their toes in the fantasy world, but would need to be guided through it.”

The future of fantasy shows cannot be assured, but it can be said with surety that the genre is seeing a huge wave of popularity, something that hasn’t happened to it before and if executed properly, could soon become an online staple.

*Names have been changed on request

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