Premium cable hit Game of Thrones is currently in the midst of wrapping up season 6, and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss aren’t showing any signs of letting up on what has proved to be one of the most consistently thrilling seasons yet. Based on the best-selling A Song of Fire and Ice series of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin, the latest episode, titled “Battle of the Bastards,” included a gruesome character death as well as the most epic battle since “Hardhome” in season 5.

Ahead of airing the final episode of season 6 on HBO this Sunday, avid fans of the show were already aware that the next episode will borrow the title “The Winds of Winter” from Martin’s forthcoming volume in the epic fantasy series, and appears to be all set to deliver a stunning conclusion to everything that has been building up over the past couple of months. The latest word has it that Game of Thrones is not hurting when it comes to viewers leading up to its season finale, and many of those viewers are opting to stream the program online instead of watching it on TV or on demand.

According to USA Today, Game of Thrones is the first HBO series to reach season 6 while continuing to build its viewing audience, with Nielsen and streaming data indicating that as of June 17 the show has averaged 23.3 million viewers across all platforms, and is up 15% since last year. The Sunday premiere of “Battle of the Bastards” saw an increase of 6% with 7.3 million viewers, though the crucial factor of that viewership came from HBO Now (which launched in April 2015) and HBO Go streaming subscribers, who collectively accounted for a 70% increase in overall viewership (in addition to another 4% from TV and on demand) since season 5 at about 2.5 million streams.

Kit Harington in Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9 Game of Thrones Scores Record High Viewers Thanks to Streaming

The advent of HBO Now (an online streaming service that provides access to all of the network’s original programming), came in the wake of compelling evidence that more and more millennials were cutting the cord with standard cable providers, and opting for streaming subscription services instead. Game of Thrones has long been a centerpiece of discussion when it comes to the problem of piracy, due to its dubious honor of becoming the most-pirated show in history, but it seems that adapting to the way that many young people now prefer to watch TV has proven to be a successful gambit for HBO.

With plenty of basic cable networks quickly stepping up to the streaming plate to offer shows on-demand online (like the new Star Trek revival series or The Good Wife spin-off on CBS All Access), viewers who would prefer to watch TV on their own schedule don’t appear to be as much of a threat to the TV industry as previously feared.

Game of Thrones season 6 will conclude this Sunday with ‘The Winds of Winter’ at 9pm on HBO.

Source: USA Today

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