The sixth season of HBO's Game of Thrones begins April 24, but critics will have to watch the shows live in order to write their thoughts and recaps. No early versions of the episodes will be sent to media.
"We’re not sending out press copies this year, anywhere in the world," HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told Entertainment Weekly. "There will be no copies for review."
This is a surprising move for a show of this size and following, but it shouldn't be that shocking: The first four episodes of season five were leaked last year, and Game of Thrones continues to be one of the most pirated shows on television.
Piracy is only part of the issue, however, as the fear of content being spoiled may have something to do with this decision. The show has now mostly surpassed the timeline of the books, while also deviating from the written storyline. One of the twists in the next book can't happen on the show at all, due to some characters being alive in the book who have died on the show.
"But that doesn’t narrow it down that much because at this point there are like 15 characters who are dead on the show who are still alive in the books," series writer George R.R. Martin said in an interview with IGN.
The lack of review screeners doesn't just decrease the risk of piracy, but also means that fans and critics alike will experience every twist and surprise at the same time; no one will be able to spoil a plot twist due to publishing a story early or saying too much in a headline.