[SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 6 ahead.]

The HBO fantasy epic Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows in recent memory with a loyal fan base. No one wants to miss a single episode of the must-see fantasy-drama, since between the water cooler discussions, social media talk and news feeds, you’re bound to have any major events spoiled for you.

Game of Thrones season 6 came to a close not long ago and the anticipation is already growing for the seventh season and what it will bring. The numbers that came in for season 6 show a huge influx in viewership – and the reason behind the growth further illustrates the future of television viewing.

The ratings for each episode of Game of Thrones season 6 gave HBO some phenomenal ratings, far higher than previous years. The ratings went from an average of around 20 million viewers per episode to a whopping 25.1 million viewers each for season 6. In order to enjoy Game of Thrones each week in the past one had to subscribe to a cable or satellite service and pay for the upgraded premium channel. Thanks to the fairly modern technological advancement of the HBO GO and HBO NOW, HBO GO viewers can see the show at their convenience and anywhere they travel, while the HBO NOW app viewers can now pay HBO $15 a month directly to enjoy the programing (much like Netflix or Hulu). This new path of viewing is so popular that almost 40% of the season 6 viewership was through the HBO digital platform, while the combined apps have viewing activity up 91% from season 5.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9 Game of Thrones Season 6 Averaged 5 Million More Viewers Per Episode

It’s no secret to anyone that pays attention that streaming media is quickly becoming the future of television viewing. There are even instances where video on demand (VOD) is being used as a viable equal or alternative to a theatrical release. There may be a time in the not so distant future where we see more movies simultaneously released on VOD and in theaters.

It’s not surprising to viewers of Game of Thrones that season 6 garnered such strong ratings growth. The story is really coming together, between the resurrection of Jon Snow, the death of the High Sparrow and his followers, events such as the Battle of the Bastards and the continuing journey of the Khaleesi and her trio of dragons across the seven kingdoms. The finale of season 6 and the feeling of victory that came with the tying up of old story arcs and rivalries before moving into the final phase of the series (and the impending battles for the throne) will no doubt continue to drive viewers into season 7

NEXT: Game of Thrones Season 7 Will Be 7 Episodes Long

Game of Thrones season 6 is coming to digital download on August 1, 2016, and Blu-ray/DVD on November 15, 2016. Season 7 will premiere on HBO in summer 2017.

Source: HBO

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