Game of Thrones breaks new viewership record with Season 8’s “Winterfell”

Bran Jon reunion Winterfell

The hype for this final season of Game of Thrones is unparalleled. More people than ever are watching the show, and more of them are doing so as soon as possible to avoid getting spoiled. What did that result in, ratings-wise? Let’s have a look!

Entertainment Weekly reports that the season premiere, “Winterfell,” was viewed by a record-breaking 17.4 million watchers in the US on Sunday evening. EW points out the 17.4 million make the season eight premiere HBO’s biggest telecast ever and 2019’s most-watched scripted content, surpassing The Big Bang Theory‘s 14.1 million viewers earlier on the year, despite it being aired on a broadcast network. However, there is a catch: these 17.4 million were across multiple airings, and including some streaming services.

On first airing, the traditional metric, The Wrap reveals it was viewed by 11.8 million, so the record-holder remains the season seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” at 12.1 million. On overnight telecast and partial streaming, “The Dragon and the Wolf” had an at-the-time record-breaking viewership of 16.9 million, so “Winterfell” did at least break this less concrete and comparable rating of overnight viewership, if not live.

Ratings Seasons 1-8.01 First Airing

Moreover, season eight has a new record average viewership for now, breaking last season’s record of 10.3 million, which we’ll see develop (probably upwards) as the season continues. Crucially, “Winterfell” beats all previous season premieres, surpassing the previous record-holder, season seven’s “Dragonstone,” by about 1.7 million viewers:

Ratings Chart Season 1-8.01

In terms of growth, it’s too early to say, as there’s only a single episode available, but, for now, with 1.5 million over season seven, season eight is comparable to the jumps in viewership characteristic of earlier seasons, which ranged from 1.2 to 1.9 million. The show plateaued a bit going into seasons five and six, with slightly higher viewership on average but no big jumps, and then absolutely skyrocketed in season seven with 2.6 million higher viewership than the previous season. Unless season eight improves dramatically on first airing, it’s unlikely to break season seven’s growth record.

Though it’s a pity the premiere didn’t break every ‘live’ (first airing) records, to be fair more people than ever watch television via streaming nowadays. With our viewing habits changing, there’s simply no perfect comparison to be made with earlier seasons.

47 responses

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    1. Wow, great rating. Although the ratings ceased to matter in the grand scheme of things when it became apparent that the show would have a proper finale I still love it when I see a high rating. I know a lot of people who have caught up since the last season, so I can’t say I’m surprised, but cool news regardless.

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    2. The initial tv airing is probably like 12.5 million or something close to that if we are comparing to the previous record, also have to add that HBO was dropped by Dish last year an that may have affected some subscribers but not much obviously, and also this doesn’t include Amazon, Roku and any of the other streaming partners of HBO .

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    3. Jack Nabble:
      The initial tv airing is probably like 12.5 million or something close to that if we are comparing to the previous record, also have to add that HBO was dropped by Dish last year an that may have affected some subscribers but not much obviously, and also this doesn’t include Amazon, Roku and any of the other streaming partners of HBO .

      I watched through Prime Video since I have the HBO NOW addon through them. So the number should definitely be higher.

      According to The Wrap https://www.thewrap.com/game-of-thrones-season-8-premiere-ratings-record/ the live airing did 11.8 million, which is higher then the Season 7 premiere (10.1 million), but slightly lower then the Season 7 finale (12.1 million).

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    4. Knight of the Walkers,

      It would be interesting if they showed the worldwide viewership but i know that’s basically impossible, in my country the HBO GO servers crashed at 4 AM in the morning which is basically when it airs here at the same time as the US premiere, so i can only imagine how it was in the US

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    5. Jack Bauer 24,

      Oh,there you have it, so like i said, losing Dish may have lost them a bit of subs but not that much to make a difference, also maybe Dish is now going to stop being so arrogant when they see that basically their blackmail had little effect on HBO’s bussiness .

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    6. Jack Nabble:
      Jack Bauer 24,

      Oh,there you have it, so like i said, losing Dish may have lost them a bit of subs but not that much to make a difference, also maybe Dish is now going to stop being so arrogant when they see that basically their blackmail had little effect on HBO’s bussiness .

      Also remember that those who have DirectTV Now got the episode a few hours earlier.

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    7. Jack Bauer 24,

      Yeah, but to be fair it was only like a few hours before the actual premiere, most of the people who watched it are on a certain sub that likes to watch and read leaks so i don’t think it had that much effect on the ratings if at all .

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    8. The fact that Hibberd didn’t give the live airing rating makes me think it was lower than last season finale. As crazy at it sounds it is not unthinkable due to HBO’s(or I should say their new owners AT&T) greed causing them to lose Dish costumers which were 3M HBO subscribers and more people streaming it on HBOGO and HBO Now then ever before.

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    9. They could have had even more, if they had the right arrangements. Like in my country: this season for the first time we have got a privilege to subscribe to HBO directly and officially; we were promised that the episodes would be uploaded simultaneously with the global premiere; we got up at 4 a.m. Monday morning (sic!); and? The episode was uploaded at 10.45 – almost 7 hours after the premiere!!!!!! It ruined my morning and nearly the whole experience (sure, nothing can fully ruing GOT and now I feel pretty happy with the episode, but still…)
      Sorry, needed to dicharge my dissapointment somewhere:)

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    10. JamesL:
      The fact that Hibberd didn’t give the live airing rating makes me think it was lower than last season finale. As crazy at it sounds it is not unthinkable due to HBO’s(or I should say their new owners AT&T) greed causing them to lose Dish costumers which were 3M HBO subscribers and more people streaming it on HBOGO and HBO Now then ever before.

      11.8 million https://www.thewrap.com/game-of-thrones-season-8-premiere-ratings-record/

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    11. JamesL,

      It was lower but i think you have it the other way around, it’s Dish Network who are a bunch of greedy assholes an also the CEO basically publically said that he would fear that their subcribers may find “other ways” to watch GOT when it airs, that is a scumbag move and basically blackmail, any other western country that guy would have been in jail for his comments

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    12. Jack Nabble,

      HBO is the one blackmailing DISH and they are only doing so because they have GoT. HBO is now owned by AT&T which owns Direct TV. They can raise the price significantly for DISH and DISH can either pay for it or lose lots of costumers during GoT season, many of whom would switch to DIRECT TV. HBO wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t have the biggest show TV airing. Without GoT airing HBO losing DISH costumers would hurt HBO more than it hurts DISH but with GoT airing they believe they can force DISH to pay the price.

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    13. JamesL,

      Well, it looks like it didn’t hurt them that much since the initial viewership wasn’t that much lower than the season 7 finale an i’m sorry but what that guy said is still a scumbag move and nothing will change my opinion on that, i’m not a fan of AT&T either since they made some strange choices since they took over but that doesn’t change the fact that the Dish CEO encouraged his subcribers to pirate GOT or other HBO shows, that is undefendable !

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    14. Jack Nabble: Inga,

      I get your anger but this is only the US viewership, not the worldwide viewership .

      I.e., you didn’t count, anyway!!!! 🤪

      Seriously, the global ratings probably will be pretty impressive once they are tallied. Given the different numbers of outlets (and the fact that some countries are much less obsessed about immediate ratings than are others), that will take a few days.

      Still, this will be the year that the nay-sayers will finally be right: viewership is going to suck after this season.

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    15. The actual number of people who watched the episode is much bigger than that anyway. Easily surpasses 100 mil when you count the whole world IMO. Don’t forget the fact that the ones who pirate it are far more in number than those who watch it officially.

      Edit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRYOkYquttQ
      This is another reason. This right here is counted as one viewer by the system.

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    16. Ratings down on the Season 7 finale. The hype failed. Book purists vindicated as the show’s ratings plummet.

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    17. Ok, after the spirits calmed down i just realised how pointless the whole argument was, the show is it’s final season and is still the most popular show in the world, the whole ratings debate doesn’t matter one bit now, we should save that for the spinoff show/s !

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    18. Wimsey: I.e., you didn’t count, anyway!!!! 🤪

      Seriously, the global ratings probably will be pretty impressive once they are tallied.Given the different numbers of outlets (and the fact that some countries are much less obsessed about immediate ratings than are others), that will take a few days.

      Still, this will be the year that the nay-sayers will finally be right: viewership is going to suck after this season.

      “The show’s ratings tanked after season 8. Why do you suppose that is?”

      “…because the show ended with season 8?”

      “WAKE UP SHEEPLE”

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    19. Entertainment Tonight just reported over a billion people worldwide viewed the premiere and I suspect maybe even more.
      Absolutely astounding!

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    20. Jack Bauer 24,

      Outstanding numbers! This won’t be the last viewership record that gets broken this season. I agree that the finale is almost certain top 20 million at this point.

      I’m off to watch the episode for a third time …

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    21. This…show…is…everything. 8”’-}
      Well, essentially.
      My parents, brother, and I contributed to those numbers via two screens.
      I knew I’d be overwhelmed with thoughts, so I just got out all my immediate responses in my blog like last season. x)

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    22. Brandon:
      People actually watch The Big Bang Theory?

      I used to. It’s really “The Sheldon Show.”
      I’ve got about 35 unwatched episodes recorded on my DVR. Just can’t get motivated to watch any more of them. Ever since the science geek characters started getting girlfriends, wives and children – it’s just not the same anymore. I watched for the cool science stuff – not relationship fluff.

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    23. Jack Hamm:
      Entertainment Tonight just reported over a billion people worldwide viewed the premiere and I suspect maybe even more.
      Absolutely astounding!

      And how many billions more pirated it?

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    24. Shame they didn’t start it with a great episode, going to be lots of disappointed people, and it will now drop off a little for the next one,

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    25. I’ve got a theory about Bronn. Didn’t Jaime tell him in Season 5 that his ideal death would be dying in the arms of the woman he loved? Maybe Bronn tracks down Jaime and Brienne on their way south after surviving the battle of Winterfell, and shoots him with the crossbow so that he can die in Brienne’s arms, thus giving him his ideal death.

      I think this would be a fitting ending to Bronn’s arc. He would kill Jaime, but he would be conflicted about it and honor his ideal death.

      Also for those doubting that Jaime would turn against Jaime like this, remember what he said to Tyrion in Season 2. Tyrion asked him if he would kill a baby without question and he said that he would ask how much. Cersei is now offering Bronn everything he wants to kill his friends, which morally would be comparable to killing a baby.

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    26. JamesL,

      really disagree with that, i cant think of a episode in the entire 7 seasons that i would place below this one, they all had good moments,
      so so episode for me, not anywhere near good

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    27. Undead Elephant,

      He wont do it, he also saved him from the dragon, he didn’t have to risk his life,
      also the crossbow is i think in the big battle, more likely he will go to kill them intending to do it, but then end up fighting for them and be killed doing it

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    28. sellsword,

      So apparently projecting your personal opinion as a fact is a thing, oh wait you’re the same Brexit guy, i assume intelligence is not your virtue !

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    29. Analyzing the numbers on the site “Showbuzzdaily” it is interesting that despite almost 2m+ more viewers than season 7 premiere the ratings for season 8 premiere are down in a lot of the demos. It is age 50+ viewers where the ratings jumped a lot. The numbers for season 8 skew older. It may be because younger people are more likely to use streaming.

      http://www.showbuzzdaily.com/articles/showbuzzdailys-top-150-sunday-cable-originals-network-finals-7-16-2017.html

      http://www.showbuzzdaily.com/articles/showbuzzdailys-top-150-sunday-cable-originals-network-finals-4-14-2019.html

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    30. JamesL,

      In the 18-49 demo which is usually the most important, only the M one is sligtly lower, the other ones are higher unless i can’t read correct

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    31. JamesL,

      Analyzing the numbers some more really highlights that the shows live viewers are skewing way older now. It was actually getting higher ratings in the young male demographic when it was getting 7M viewers a few seasons ago. Last years finale got a 4.7 in the 18-34 demo, this seasons premiere got 3.7 despite getting similar total viewers. The 18-49 demo was 5.7 for 2017 finale and 5.0 for this season premiere. I know it doesn’t matter to HBO but the rise of streaming really hurt the shows ability to grow its live ratings.

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    32. JamesL,

      But live airings don’t matter as much to HBO because they aren’t an advertising based channel like the other networks, it’s mostly just for bragging rights .

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    33. Jack Nabble,

      I know I said that in my comment but live ratings are what the media focuses on and gets the headlines. I liked seeing the huge ratings growth throughout the season and was hoping it would break cable tv all time records which if not for streaming I’m sure it would have. The fact that the show got more hype than ever before but failed to top last seasons finale and down significantly in young demos gives some people an excuse to say the show is overhyped. More are watching than ever but are watching differently than with live tv.

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    34. The rating doesn’t include the streaming numbers with the HBO extensions through Prime Video, Hulu and Roku yet. Should see a boost if/when that number comes through. I watch through Prime Video and I know a lot of people use Roku.

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    35. So 11.76m for the “main number” people seem to pay attention to is lower than I was expecting last week (~15m guess). With so many different methods/platforms to watch now it’s tough to predict, for me. Still, 11.8 for the premiere is fantastic! I suppose it will hover around there until a considerable jump for the finale. Like is said though, at this point it doesn’t really matter that much. They’ve already pretty much achieved an ever-growing product that’s not normal. 🙂

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