'Game of Thrones' Costs Employers Billions in Lost Productivity

The time American workers will spend discussing the current and final season of the immensely popular HBO sword-and-sorcery epic series “Game of Thrones,” which has won the second most Emmys wins of all time, could cost their employers as much as $3.31 billion this year in lost productivity, according to an analysis just released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement and business and executive coaching firm.

The firm bases its estimate on viewership for the previous season of the series, in 2018. Each episode last year season averaged 32.8 million viewers. The current employment-to-population ratio is 60.6%, meaning that about 19.9 million employed workers watched each episode. The average hourly wage for non-farm payrolls is $27.77.  

Assuming that employees spend a total of one hour of their work day after each airing discussing plot points and joining office pools on which major characters will survive the series, that means about $552 million — 19.9 million viewers times $27.77 — worth of time will be wasted after every episode. There are six episodes, so $3.31 billion in all. And the finale is sure to take more of people’s time. It may even make the list of greatest television finales of all time — or the worst.

“Game of Thrones” is hardly the worst culprit at sapping productivity, though. Challenger, Gray also notes that, applying similar metrics, the Michael Cohen House Oversight Committee hearing this year cost employers $3.8 billion, March Madness had a 2019 price tag of $13.3 billion, and online holiday shopping for late 2018 was responsible for $35.4 billion. In the end, after the series finale, the list of most productive countries in the world may look different.