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.
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:
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.