LOS ANGELES-‘Game of Thrones’ returns for its season seven premiere on July 16, HBO announced Thursday in an elaborate marketing stunt which elated and bemused fans of the hit fantasy show. In a gimmick described by the New York Times as “memorably misguided,” the US cable network revealed all in a Facebook Live video showing a block of ice which viewers had to melt by commenting “Fire” to reveal the date.

The process was supposed to take a touch under 15 minutes - already a long time to be concentrating on a block of slowly melting ice - but the video malfunctioned several times, drawing out the process to more than an hour.

The debacle sparked snarky posts on Twitter, where #GoTS7 remained one of the top trending hashtags worldwide for hours after the announcement.

“Whoever is in charge of the @GameofThrones S7 premiere date reveal is getting a visit from Septa Unella,” tweeted one frustrated fan, invoking the brutal nun of the show’s fifth and sixth seasons. “Next year, @HBO, a press release will do,” said fan account @BeautyBrienne. “Game of Thrones” tells the story of noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne, all the while keeping one eye on the “White Walkers” leading hordes of the undead toward an invasion from the North.

Since its debut in 2010, the fantasy epic - which has 38 Emmys, more than any other narrative show in history - has been the target of criticism for senseless violence and, more controversially, its pervasive use of rape as a dramatic device.

The adult themes have not deterred viewers of the show, which has grown its audience in the US to more than 25 million, and is breaking records across the world.