Game Of Thrones might be the most popular and talked-about show on television at the moment. While that’s definitely a good thing for the creators, it does have its downsides.

We all know, Game Of Thrones is the most pirated show of all time. By of the start of September, the show’s seventh season was pirated more than 1bn times, according to MUSO, a market tracking company. The show’s huge cast and crew means that leaks happen all the time too.

As if that wasn’t enough, set photos tend to spoil most of the big Game Of Thrones moments too. Jon Snow’s resurrection, Gendry’s return, Jon’s meeting with Daenerys, Theon’s victorious fight with the ironborn captains were all massive moments that were spoiled months in advance. Blast you, people with cameras!

Of course, for the most part, these spoilers haven’t really dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for Thrones.

However, they are pretty annoying. And with the show’s ultimate finale just around the corner, it’d be a real shame if everyone knew what was coming months in advance. Thankfully, the showrunners have a plan, according to HBO original programming president Casey Bloys:

“I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really know what happens.

“You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know. So they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that there’s no real definitive answer until the end.”

Interesting. That would definitely ensure that the final cut of an episode couldn’t be spoiled in advance.

Not a new strategy:

This isn’t the first time Game Of Thrones has filmed multiple versions of scenes to throw fans off the scent. Around the release of Season 7, Kit Harrington claimed to have spent around 15 hours filming three fake scenes:

“What I can say about this season is – we had a lot of paparazzi following us around, especially when we were in Spain, and we did fake some scenes. We put together people in situations where we knew the paparazzi were around so they’d take photos and that would get on the internet to fake scenes so people would think they were real.”

Makes sense. It’s a handy way to throw people off the scent, despite being annoying for the cast and crew.

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However, if these scenes are going totally unused, how much money are they wasting for HBO?

According to Entertainment Weekly Game Of Thrones Season 6 cost an average of $10 million per episode. That’s probably largely the same for Season 7 and 8 which have fewer episodes but much more spectacle. So, let’s think for a second. If Season 8 has 6 episodes (confirmed at a panel at SXSW), that’s $1,666,666 per episode. If each episode is around 60 minutes long that’s roughly $27,777 per minute.

Post-production probably wouldn’t be applied to those unused scenes made to trick paparazzi. So let’s shave that budget down a little. $14,500 per minute seems a reasonable estimate.

Now, if we imagine these ‘multiple alternate endings’ are going to be about 10 minutes each, that’s $145,000 down the toilet each time. And how many alternate scenes will there be in total? Three? Four? Five? Per episode or just for the finale? All this could end up costing somewhere around $1m upwards for HBO. For scenes that are entirely worthless.

An alternate theory:

But here’s the thing. Game Of Thrones viewing figures prove that the show just keeps getting more and more popular. The show started its first episode with 2.2m viewers. It’s most recent series ended with an audience of 12.07m. And that’s just in the US.

Clearly, leaks, spoilers, and set photos are not affecting the viewing figures. So why the heck would HBO waste so much money on filming scenes to avoid spoilers, when those spoilers clearly aren’t affecting their bottom line in any meaningful way?

The only explanation would be to keep fans happy. But since when have you ever known a corporation like HBO to spend waste sums of its own money just to give fans the warm, fuzzy feeling of not knowing what’s coming in advance?

In addition, Kit Harrington mentioned filming ‘alternate scenes’ to throw paparazzi off the scent for Season 7. But how many ‘spoiler scenes’ did you see over the course of Game Of Thrones‘ production that weren’t featured in the final cut of the show? Few, if any.

So here’s an alternate and much cheaper theory: HBO tells people it is filming alternate endings. This gives the public a reason to doubt authentic leaked set photos. Fans question what they see so much that leaked set photos are no longer considered spoilers.

In short: just because HBO says they’re filming alternate endings, doesn’t mean they really are. It’s just helpful to them if you don’t believe what you see.