For technocrati supremacy, it is Game of Thrones versus Silicon Valley

in Uncategorized by

In the battle for Sunday night supremacy, two giants have faced off — Westeros versus Silicon Valley.

As HBO debuted the highly awaited comedy “Silicon Valley,” the technology industry elite seem to be more engrossed by another show on the network premiering the same night — the fourth season launch of the dragon-filled drama “Game of Thrones.”

Fans of the hit fantasy series anxiously awaited its return; no more so than in Silicon Valley, according to Mark Milian and Sarah Frier in Bloomberg.

One example of the celebration of all things Westeros is from the charitable organization HackCancer, which held a “Game of Thrones” theme party Saturday night at the San Francisco Armory. It was only one of the many GOT themed events held the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mikael Berner says he has no plans to watch “Silicon Valley,” the new series from “Office Space” creator Mike Judge.

Instead, the founder of the Mountain View-based software startup EasilyDo Inc. will get together with friends to follow the battle for the Iron Throne.

“I prefer shows that aren’t too connected with my reality,” Berner tells Bloomberg, adding that Hollywood often gets life in Silicon Valley wrong.

“I just find myself judging everything — like, ‘We don’t code like that,’ and, ‘Larry doesn’t walk around with Google Glass on; Sergey does.’ It’s not as fun.”

Berner says most digerati have shrugged their shoulders over “Silicon Valley.” 

Indifference toward entertainment portraying the techie life is widespread among the real people of Silicon Valley.

“Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” a reality show produced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, failed in 2012. “Betas,” a comedy from Amazon.com, about a software startup, also was not renewed.  

HBO promoted “Silicon Valley,” with a series of promotions geared to the technology industry, including an advance screening in Redwood City, California, close to the Oracle Corp. and Electronic Arts headquarters. In attendance were both Tesla Motors Inc. chief Elon Musk of and venture capitalist Michael Arrington.

HBO held similar red-carpet occasions for its other shows — including a “Game of Thrones” screening last year in San Francisco, an event where technology executives mixed in with the cast and creators.

However, publicity stunts with the technocrati do not guarantee that a Silicon Valley-themed production will be a hit.

Ashton Kutcher, in his portrayal of the Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs in the movie “Jobs,” held several screenings for technology execs, including one in San Francisco and another at the Austin high-tech festival South by Southwest.

On “Jobs” event was in Los Altos Hills, California, at the palatial home of Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner. The private event had Musk, Yahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer, venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Salesforce.com Inc. CEO Marc Benioff, among other Silicon Valley heavyweights.

It did little to help “Jobs” at the box office.

With total ticket sales of $35.9 million worldwide, “Jobs” only received a poor 27 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes. On opening weekend, it came in seventh place.

HBO is using “Silicon Valley” and its HBO Go service to appeal to the same young adult demographic that have “cut the cable,” who opt for online streaming options from Netflix and Amazon, which are often less expensive than cable.

“It’s kind of like a two-fer,” Newsonomics media analyst Ken Doctor told Milian and Frier. “It’s another original series, which they pioneered, but aimed directly at the cord-cutter generation.”

Netflix last year beat HBO by becoming the largest subscription streaming service in the nation with a 24 percent rise in paid U.S. subscribers, mostly by featuring high-profile, quality shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

HBO, which offered hits like “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective,” stayed relatively flat last year, with U.S. subscribers at 28.6 million, according to researchers at SNL Kagan.

The premier cable service is betting on Judge’s trademark irrelevance, which made hits of the animated shows “Beavis and Butt-head” for MTV and the Texas-themed “King of the Hill” for Fox. Judge also created the cult classic “Office Space,” about a technology worker who tries to get fired, but gets promoted instead.

Judge’s own experiences during the 1980s at technology companies in East Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, California was the inspiration for “Silicon Valley.”

“It wasn’t a great experience for me, but I got a lot of comedy material out of it for later,” Judge Bloomberg TV.

Judge joined collaborator Alec Berg, a writer and producer for both “Seinfeld” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” to talk with workers and executives to investigate what makes Silicon Valley tick.

“Every time we talked to somebody, practically everything they said, you’d go: Oh my God, that’s so much funnier than what we had,” Berg tells Bloomberg. “That’s a better story idea, and you can’t even fit that one in. If we get another season, we’re going to have to do that season two.”

No matter how true-to-life “Silicon Valley” ultimately is, it will have a hard time to hit the appeal “Game of Thrones,” which averages 14.4 million total viewers per episode last season.

The last HBO show to post this kind viewership was “The Sopranos” in 2004.

Others are worried about how the fictional “Silicon Valley” will affect attitudes of the actual Silicon Valley.

“I’ve worked in the industry for 20 years, and I like to see more of the positive stories told about why it’s a good career to have,” says Adam Nash, CEO of personal finance software firm Wealthfront Inc.

“As funny or entertaining as the show might be, it might continue the trend of making it look unappealing to work in high-technology jobs,” Nash adds.

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.