Game of Thrones season six ratings overview

Another Tuesday is here, but the season is over, alas. This means there are no fresh overnight ratings of a new episode – still, we can take a look at the viewership numbers of season six as a whole. First of all, here is the overview graph for the first six seasons of Game of Thrones, compared to two other critically acclaimed HBO shows, True Blood and Boardwalk Empire.

S6 ratings overview

What are the most salient features readable from the graph? Well, for one, you will notice the Memorial Day weekend dip, also visible in the previous couple of seasons. What absolutely stands out is the huge number of people that tuned in on the night of the season finale – 8.89 million. That is more than I expected, to be honest; it represents an improvement over the previous season’s record finale of just under 10 %.

The overnight average last year was 6.88 million, this year is rose to 7.69 million. Such high overnight numbers are indicative of an increase in total viewership as well, and sure enough, the preliminary report on consolidated numbers has revealed that 23 million people saw each episode of Game of Thrones season six, on average – a number that is likely to rise once the viewers of the last few episodes are included in the tally.

What are your predictions for the last two seasons of the show? I used to expect that the number of viewers was going to plateau at one point sooner or later, but I’m not all that sure about that anymore. Let us know in the comments.

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    1. I figure that next year we’ll have a similar curve on the graph (although not as wide) but shifted 0.5-1 million upwards. And in the final season 10 million will be broken repeatedly.

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    2. I love how GoT has now destroyed True Blood. In the beginning there was worry that ‘Thrones could never top a pulpy crowdpleaser like TB with the masses, yet here we are! It’s a freakin’ sensation… THE sensation really.

      geekfurious in 3… 2… 1…

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    3. GeekFurious 🙂

      S7 premiere could hit 9 million, with over 10 million by the season finale.

      I guess the show will end with about 12 – 13 million for the series finale.

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    4. Bravo GoT! Best show ever. I would love to know how many non-Americans watch the show, including those who pirate it. These total numbers would be astronomical!

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    5. This isn’t really related to this post but I just want to voice out some doubts/questions I’ve been chewing on:
      1. Remember Season 1 when Cersei told Catelyn about a black-haired boy she had who died? That was not from the books and was meant to show Cersei’s maternal side and hint about the “golden crowns”. But the prophecy given to Cersei said the king would have 20 children while she would have 3. What about the black-haired boy? Discrepancy!
      2. Varys was feeding the small council in Season 1 information about Dany (which Jorah provided). If he was really trying to help Dany all this while, isn’t that counter-intuitive? Also, when Robert insisted on killing Dany, wasn’t it Varys who arranged for the assassin? We know how Dany reacted when she found out Jorah was spying on her, then isn’t Varys gonna be in deep cow dung when she finds what he did? (although there seems to be no one left alive to tell on him since everyone part of Robert’s small council is dead)
      3. I think Arya is going to kill Sansa. I don’t know how but I remember Ned telling Arya after he saw her with Needle, “Just don’t stab your sister with it”. Foreshadowing much?

      Is there a thread somewhere I can post this?

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    6. Thanks for the graph, Marko!

      If you’d project the viewership numbers of the first four seasons, the sixth season should have averaged around 10 million viewers, so the rise has definitely slowed down somewhat. Still, the trend is still positive, and as Johan says, breaking the 10 million mark seems possible. At a push, maybe even already for the final episode next year?

      Btw, I seem to remember that in the early days you also plotted data for The Sopranos and (maybe) The Wire? Even if numbers can’t be compared directly since HBO membership numbers have changed too much, it’d still be interesting to see how they trended from their first to the final episodes. Any chance you could add them?

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    7. the most interesting thing about this graph.. the blue line keeps going UP.. at this point the red and green lines were already going down hill ..and making it clear there are only x number of episodes left means that they arent going to lose viewers by dragging it out way after they have run out of ideas like most other other shows do

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    8. Like most shows I had been expecting GoT to plateau as well, or even drop slightly like the other two in the graph. However, the expectations have changed for me now though, especially after those last two episodes. I’m thinking it will continue with similar incremental steps up through the series finale. They have a specific story they’re telling and a definitive end on the horizon, and one which promises to be filled with amazing events like those that are fresh on our minds. This Spring I’ve had more people I know tell me they have to start watching it than I ever have. So many other shows grow stale, boring and there’s less conversation about them as they try to stretch out the story, provide nothing new and end up being very cyclical. True Blood ended up that way for me. … and major fans ignore, but TWD is the definition of that.

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    9. Clob,

      Exactly! I feel the same about True Blood, TWD and Grey’s Anatomy. GoT’s ratings will undoubtedly keep going up.

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    10. Irene,

      The same way Aerys Targaryan had 3 children and no one says he had 7. Because only those who lived count.
      If anything this makes the prophecy stronger, by saying Cercei would not have children with Robert even if they tried.

      Yes and Varys also set information to Jorah to warn him about those assassins and save Dany. He sent them to not let Robert question his loyalty but he also sent information to save her life.
      Tyrion says so in S5: ”Varys is probaly the biggest reason you are still alive”.

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    11. I wonder if the series finale of GoT initial airing will top the series finale of Breaking Bad. That hit 13 million or something like that (granted, it was AMC, not HBO).

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    12. Irene,

      You can start a thread in the WOTW forums, if you like. They aren’t as heavily used as the regular comment section, but there’s some good discussions happening there. But since you posted your questions here, I’ll respond here.

      1. Yes, there’s a discrepancy because, as you say, the black-haired child was introduced as a way to foreshadow the revelation that Cersei’s other three children were Jaime’s, not Roberts, and to generate some humanity for Cersei (the black-haired child was real, it seems – Cersei mentions him to Robert during their conversation in “The Wolf and the Lion” and Robert seems to know what she’s talking about). And of course, back in Season 1, the writers didn’t know if they would ever include the prophecy (they were adverse to flashbacks back then). When the time came to introduce it, they probably didn’t want to mess up the poetic significance of the original wording “gold their crowns, and gold their shrouds” by adding in the fourth black-haired child.

      I’ve always reconciled it this way: back in medieval times, infant mortality was absurdly high, to the point most parents didn’t even bother naming the child until he or she was old enough that it became clear they would survive. Cersei’s black-haired child with Robert lived only a few days at the maximum, while all three of her golden-haired children with Jaime survived that dangerous period. By that standard, it’s not a stretch to say that Cersei only had three children. Cersei herself tells Catelyn that after the black-haired child died, she never visited his crypt, and almost never spoke of him again.

      Prophecy doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be significant (indeed, they get misinterpreted are prove wrong all the time, even though this one mostly came true).

      2. Dany already knows that Varys was feeding the Small Council information about her. Tyrion mentions Varys during their discussion in “Hardhome”, and Dany challenges him on the Spider overseeing “the campaign to find and kill me.” Tyrion defends Varys, claiming that he was doing what he needed to survive, and that he did other things as well to keep her safe – things that he did not have to do. Dany nods, and seems to accept this explanation. There will be no issue between her and Varys, especially now that he has brought Dorne and the Tyrells to her cause.

      3. God, I hope that doesn’t happen. That would be one of the most tragic things ever to happen in this story. I think it’s just a throwaway line – at least, I hope it is. Arya and Sansa fought a lot, as children do, but they do love each other, and after everything they’ve been through, I would hope that they value their familial bond more than ever.

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    13. The furious pace GoT is at currently, will ensure that next season viewership continues to go up, especially for the season premiere and finale. Viewers are curious, extremely curious, about what is going to happen next. And next.

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    14. I lend out my first season blue ray all the time to get people hooked on this. I would like to take some credit for those positive trends 😉

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    15. What I find interesting in those graphs is that True Blood didn’t really take a dive on Memorial Day weekend (unless of course it doesn’t air on weekends, in which case just ignore the comment).

      Rhaenys Stark,

      ha ha, at least in a country we both know well I think you can easily add half a million viewers.

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    16. Rhaenys Stark,

      Errr…. You’ll be quite disappointed since there’s a lot of chatting on social media all over the world, but that doesn’t mean high viewership… As Italian i can tell you that we barely reach half million viewers on pay TV, out of slightly less 5 million subscribers… I recently heard that the show is a big flop on OTA,free for all channel (yes, we have 2 differenti channel that air GoT).
      Another case that i know of is Britain, where viewership was barely over 1 million during the first 2 or 3 seasons.. . Source for this is Emilia Clarke nontheless, some old interview…. Surely piracy is really huge here, especially in my country

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    17. Omg guys I just thought of something- when the white walkers finally make it past the wall what happens in the crypts in winterfell? Jon had that dream in the books where the old kings of the north rose from their graves- won’t that be terrifying when it happens! Can you imagine!

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    18. Tar Kidho,

      There is not enough data to make a graph, I tried once with The Sopranos and Rome, but there are no episode-to-episode numbers. The total viewership of The Sopranos has been bested by GoT already, but the series finale first airing was seen by 11.90 million people. Something to aim at? 🙂

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    19. Halfman,

      Emphasis on “premium”. Lots of people I know don’t have Sky Atlantic, opting instead for basic channels. The UK ratings really are impressive!

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    20. What absolutely stands out is the huge number of people that tuned in on the night of the season finale – 8.89 million.

      I used the average season numbers (not including the finale) to predict the numbers for the finale, and I got 8.3 million, I think, which would have broken the record. So I knew the record was going to be broken. But I also strongly suspected that BoB having the highest likability of any episode to date would have an incredible boost on even that 8.3 number, and it really, really did. I can just imagine how high BoB would have been had it not been for that silly ballgame.

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    21. What are your predictions for the last two seasons of the show? I used to expect that the number of viewers was going to plateau at one point sooner or later, but I’m not all that sure about that anymore. Let us know in the comments.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a plateau or even a very small dip, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if the show did nothing but climb every season. The only thing that would surprise me would be a large dip in the numbers – back to a seasonal average close to the first three seasons or thereabouts. That would surprise me.

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    22. Sou:
      What I find interesting in those graphs is that True Blood didn’t really take a dive on Memorial Day weekend (unless of course it doesn’t air on weekends, in which case just ignore the comment).

      True Blood started their seasons after Memorial Day weekend.

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    23. Diego,

      Well I live in Greece (so we’re neighbors) and I can safely say that about 85% of the Greek fans pirate the show, since we don’t have HBO here and the channel that broadcasts GoT is too expensive for a lot of us. I think the same applies to many countries. So the actual fan base is huge. It’s impossible to know, surely, but I would love to know how many people have watched ‘The Winds of Winter’ around the globe. About 40-50 million? I honestly have no idea, and the show keeps getting bigger and bigger. 🙂

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    24. Kasi,
      I made a comment once about the fact that there are a lot of buried bodies in the 7K for the NK to reanimate. I think it was to make a joke about Tywin returning as a wight, which of course now is out of the question since the Sept was obliterated. Still, the numbers become astounding if he can add everything from ‘juicy’ to skeletal, like those outside the 3ER’s cave.

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    25. Pet peeve: Everyone needs to stop using the Excel wiggly smoothed lines. The space between the points doesn’t mean anything. You can’t have viewer numbers for episode 602.5, so interpolation is meaningless: keep the lines as simple as possible.

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    26. Rhaenys Stark,

      Same here in Romania, although HBO has become a lot more common and easy to get these past couple of years, I still think around 50-65% of Romanians pirate the show.

      Pirating is a huge thing here, almost everyone does it one way or another….. Buying video games or paying for movies/music was very rare until couple of years ago.

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    27. Mihnea:
      Varys also set information to Jorah to warn him about those assassins and save Dany. He sent them to not let Robert question his loyalty but he also sent information to save her life.

      That’s not what the episode shows. In You Win or You Die, all they show is the little bird giving Jorah his pardon and telling him that he can go home, and Jorah looks uneasy because he knows what that means for Daenerys. Later in Season 4, a copy of that pardon appears and it says nothing of helping Daenerys avoid death.
      So Varys has no reason to think Jorah will save Daenerys from the assassins, now that he can abandon her and go home safely.

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    28. Very happy!

      I had my gripes with this season,
      but they churned out two masterpiece episodes at the end, which are the highest rated episodes of all time on IMDB.
      Thats something amazing, and they’ve pushed us into season 7 with spectacular momentum and setup.
      All my gripes pale in comparison

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    29. Even though the Memorial Day Dip is sad, I love how Seasons 4 and 6 of GoT look like birds in flight – Varys’s little birds – and Season 5 looks like a Texas Longhorn.

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    30. Tywin of the Hill,

      I was speaking about S1, where he is clearly informed about Varys about the assassination attempt.

      By S4 there is absolutly no more talk of assassins and it is Selmy who gets the letter.

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    31. Rhaenys Stark: So the actual fan base is huge. It’s impossible to know, surely, but I would love to know how many people have watched ‘The Winds of Winter’ around the globe.

      I know of people that are way behind in the series that watched BotB after the fact because of the post-episode buzz. I’m not a person willing to do that sort of thing but some are. Hell, for about three days a certain Youtube channel had that entire episode up in separate videos by scene. There was no order to them but everybody could have watched the episode in pieces.
      The Nielsen ratings simply give a general idea, but aren’t very accurate in true numbers of individual viewers. Most shows don’t gather large viewing parties every week that shows like GoT do. An example of this are those Burlington Bar Reactions videos on Youtube with like 40-50 people watching the episodes together.

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    32. Mihnea,

      It’s a shame really because the show is a really high quality one and deserves to be financially supported by the fans. Well I buy the Blu Rays each year and tons of show merchandise so I want to believe that I actually atone for my illegal downloading sins xD

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    33. Mihnea:
      I was speaking about S1,

      As was I.

      he is clearly informed about Varys about the assassination attempt.

      No he’s not. He’s given a pardon and that’s it. If Varys had wanted him to know about the assassination, the messenger boy would have told him.

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    34. Ginevra:
      Even though the Memorial Day Dip is sad, I love how Seasons 4 and 6 of GoT look like birds in flight – Varys’s little birds – and Season 5 looks like a Texas Longhorn.

      Charging or flying high as opposed to True Blood’s sad little worm? 😛

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    35. Tywin of the Hill,

      The pardon is in season 4.

      In season 1, he leaves Dany alone to ”write some letters”, can’t remember the exact words, then when he comes back he immediatly starts questioning the wine seller and knows it is poisoned.

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    36. Mihnea,

      I was watching the episode last night and it’s definitely season one. He makes an excuse to leave Dany when they are in the Vaes Dothrak market and he’s given a scroll by a young boy who says it’s a pardon. He then heads back to Dany and sees her with the wine seller.

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    37. narbo,

      Which is something like 20% of the subscribers base, good numbers but nothing special and no spike on new users…while on national RAI TV ratings is less than 2%.(I know, RAI 4 isn’t exactly a major one). No hard feelings on you, just a thought 🙂
      In the end,viewership were good enough for 6 seasons both sides of the ocean for us to see how it ends (howy tends freefolk! )
      Where did you find Sky’s consolidated numbers?

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    38. Halfman,

      I always thought that Jorah surmised that a pardon to return home meant that Dany was a goner. The only reason they’d not need him to stay and spy on her is if she’s dead.

      So, in a round about way, the pardon clued him in to what was up, but it came right down to the wire…

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    39. I just saw Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion in that graph.
      Please tell me I’m not the only one.
      I’m like a slave for this show.

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    40. Jared,

      Hey thanks for the response, certainly cleared up my doubts! I’ve forgotten about “Hardhome”, shall rewatch and see what I’ve missed.

      If Sansa betrays Jon, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Arya doesn’t take it too well. And this kinda fits the “bittersweet” ending GRRM was planning.

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    41. Halfman:
      Diego,

      I can’t speak for early seasons but viewing figures for the UK were 2.2 million for the season 6 premiere and around 2 million for the finale, with that figure expected to double with catch up and on demand. That’s very high for a premium rate channel here.

      https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jun/28/game-of-thrones-finale-watched-by-nearly-2m-on-sky-atlantic

      I believe Spain is one of largest GoT viewing areas in Europe? No idea what the figures are though. I guess I could be included in that, but ‘cheat’ and watch it on UK’s Sky Atlantic via satellite.

      In Spain as far as I know its only available on ‘Canal +’ which is also a subscription channel via satellite like Sky, but perhaps its also available on terrestrial TV through some ‘pay per view’ channel… No idea.

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    42. QueenofThrones:
      I love how GoT has now destroyed True Blood.In the beginning there was worry that ‘Thrones could never top a pulpy crowdpleaser like TB with the masses, yet here we are!It’s a freakin’ sensation…THE sensation really.

      geekfurious in 3… 2… 1…

      You certainly set up an easy counterpoint: that during the last couple seasons, GoT has become a pulpy crowd pleaser itself. Beat ‘ em, join ’em, whatever.

      Not furious though. Or even mad. A little dissapointed though, but not surprised.

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    43. Thanks for posting throughout the season

      What’s really impressive is that the viewership numbers have not only held

      But broken through to a new level at just under 9 million

      This is of course while they are rolling out HBO Now digital streaming which would cut into the numbers – which has “only” meant it has stayed flat as opposed to declining.

      So a pivot in viewership

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    44. Anon:
      Halfman,

      I always thought that Jorah surmised that a pardon to return home meant that Dany was a goner. The only reason they’d not need him to stay and spy on her is if she’s dead.

      So, in a round about way, the pardon clued him in to what was up, but it came right down to the wire…

      That’s likely. The little bird’s presence in the market alerted him to the threat to Dany being an immediate one.

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    45. Irene,

      “When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers” – Is that a foreshadowing too?

      I think Arya killing Sansa would be too extreme. I’m sure Sansa plays a part in LF’s downfall, otherwise I don’t see the point of her character. While I agree there will be tension between Jon/Sansa/LF, I don’t think it will end with betrayal of Jon, but more likely betrayal of LF. Remember, Sansa is currently on neither side, or definitely more on Jon’s than LF’s.

      And there is also this statement from Benioff and Weiss: “Sansa is a character we care about almost more than any other” – It seemed to me from their interviews this season, that they defended Sansa’s actions, not Jon’s.

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    46. Diego,

      Game of Thrones is the by far the biggest show on subscription television in the UK, Sky Atlantic have said as much I believe and they are the channel which airs it.

      Someone mentioned the Walking Dead I enjoyed that for a few seasons but now it’s predictable and I can’t bring myself to watch it.

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    47. Chad Brick,

      Now that’s just a silly argument. If you compare this season to the first & second, and even third, there’s no contest when it comes to the use of pulp elements to sell the show. There was way more gratuitous nudity than there is now. In Season 6, it seems to me they’ve become much more serious about letting the story sell itself, and use of nudity, which is much less overall, generally has a point to it. This season we had… what? Yara kissing a half-dressed girl. I am actually having a hard time remembering more than that. Because it didn’t stick out like it did in Season 1 especially.

      What about the show seems more “pulpy” or fanservicy than previous ones to you? And before you say it’s because of too many cheer worthy moments, I’ll match any bet you want that GRRM is also going to have the heros come out on top in the analagous situations in the books too. That’s the arc of the story that GRRM wrote – Starks fall, then they rise again – “A Time for Wolves”, etc.

      Also Geekfurious is a poster who is infamous for coming on to the ratings threads and ranting about how the ratings don’t matter. It wasn’t some potshot at geeks. Show lovers are geeks as much as book lovers are anyway. :p

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    48. QueenofThrones,

      Yara kissing a half-dressed girl. I am actually having a hard time remembering more than that. Because it didn’t stick out like it did in Season 1 especially.

      There was Pycelle’s whore
      Daenerys at the Khal burning
      A distant shot of The Hound’s penis/prosthetic
      Jon Snow’s nekked, resurrected body

      All of that stuff from the early seasons was kinda to paint a picture of the sort of society we’re dealing with here, and the characters in it. We now know that Tyrion, for example, liked to go to brothels a lot and the sort of sexual partner he is. It informed us in Margery’s advice to Sansa about Ty’s level of sexual experience, and the kind of husband he might be. And, it created contrast when, in Volantis, he couldn’t perform after being propositioned by a prostitute.
      …Well, NOW we know.

      Could be too that actors with more power have re-negotiated contracts to limit nudity..

      Shrug. Maybe.

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    49. Hear Marko Roar:
      Tar Kidho,

      There is not enough data to make a graph, I tried once with The Sopranos and Rome, but there are no episode-to-episode numbers. The total viewership of The Sopranos has been bested by GoT already, but the series finale first airing was seen by 11.90 million people. Something to aim at?

      Ah, that’s a pity about the lack of detailed numbers. 12 million definitely seems like something to aspire to though 😀

      Btw, here’s some figures (and analysis of viewing patterns) for the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/06/game-of-thrones-most-popular-sky-series-ever-as-16m-download-show

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    50. GOT is only growing, and the graph shows that to be true. As a hard core fan, I see more and more people Bing-watching to catch up and get on board! I predict with the excitement of the end and the shortened # of episodes, the show will definitely reach an all time high with viewers sitting on the edge of their seats until the end! And I will be one of them!

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