Northern Ireland

Game of Thrones ending: NI's TV industry has 'plans in place'

Jon Snow and other characters from Game Of Thrones travelling in a boat Image copyright AP
Image caption The seventh series of the record-breaking fantasy drama is currently in production

The TV industry in Northern Ireland has been planning for the end of Game of Thrones "for years", according to the head of NI Screen.

The record-breaking fantasy drama would leave a strong legacy for the local TV industry, said NI Screen CEO Richard Williams.

Game of Thrones will end after its eighth season in 2018, US broadcaster HBO confirmed on Saturday.

The multi-award winning series is largely filmed in Northern Ireland.

Its seventh series is currently in production, with additional filming in Iceland and Spain.

Made up of seven episodes instead of the usual 10, series seven is expected to air next summer, ahead of the final season in 2018.

Tenfold return on investment

NI Screen had always known Game of Thrones would come to an end, Mr Williams told the BBC.

Image caption NI Screen's Richard Williams said Game of Thrones would leave a strong legacy for the local TV industry

"By the time Game of Thrones leaves Northern Ireland, it will have been on the ground here for 10 years," he added.

"That's a very long time in our game."

The set is at Belfast's Titanic studios and there are also a number of exterior locations across the country.

NI Screen has invested £13.75m of public money in the first six seasons of the programme.

It says that investment has returned £146m to the local economy, in terms of services and tourism.

Image caption The Dark Hedges in County Antrim is one of the locations used by Game of Thrones

"Belfast Harbour are in the process of building studios on the North Foreshore, extending the capacity beyond Game of Thrones," said Mr Williams.

"When it leaves, it leaves all of the knowledge, it leaves all of the support companies.

"There have been post-production companies, casting, extras companies, catering companies, and lighting and construction.

"They are all here, and there's not a significant buyer in Los Angeles that doesn't know that Game of Thrones was made here.

"They know that capacity is going to come to the market, and they will be interested."

Government-backed NI Screen is the lead agency responsible for film and TV production in Northern Ireland.

Last year, Game of Thrones won a record 12 Emmy Awards for a series in a single year.

The series, based on novels written by George R R Martin, has picked up 23 nominations - another record - ahead of this year's annual ceremony to be held in September.

More on this story