[SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season five ahead.]
Game of Thrones season five has reached its conclusion, and many fans of HBO's fantasy TV series would agree: it was a bumpy ride, even by the show's standards. For every high point (The Massacre at Hardhome), there was a rather divisive story development (see the Sansa Stark and Stannis Baratheon plot threads), as well as material that just didn't build to something that felt worthy of the screen time it had received (Jamie and Bronn's adventures in Dorne).
The various narrative threads in Game of Thrones' fifth season culminated with a finale overflowing with drama, along with a series of cliffhangers that've left everyone wondering what comes next for the show's surviving characters (not to mention, whether or not certain players are out for good). However, regardless of whether you felt the series' fifth season was fantastic, lackluster, or an infuriatingly mixed bag, HBO network executes probably see it as a success based on the ratings turnout alone.
Variety is reporting that Game of Thrones has raised its bar for series high ratings yet again, with the finale (titled "Mother's Mercy") having averaged 8.1. million viewers when it aired. That marks not just a significant improvement on the numbers for the show's fourth season finale (which attracted some 7.09 million viewers), but also the previous series high of 7.997 million that was achieved by the season five premiere episode, "The Wars to Come", earlier this year. Game of Thrones also averaged a 4.1 rating (or about 5.2 million viewers) in the 18-49 age bracket, for its season five conclusion.
Casting for new characters on Game of Thrones seasons six has already gotten underway, though because the show has now covered many (most?) of the important plot points from A Song of Ice and Fire creator George R.R. Martin's published source novels, even ASOIAF book readers aren't so sure what to expect from this upcoming season. Game of Thrones show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have made noteworthy changes from Martin's source material, especially during the series' fifth season; at the same time, though, both the television series and novels appear to be headed towards the same final (and currently unknown) destination, for now.
Point being, while a number of people very publicly jumped off the Game of Thrones bandwagon in season five, the show's audience seems to only be growing larger, the more publicity it gains (be it for exciting action or its controversial approach to sensitive subject matter), as evidenced by the season five finale ratings. Similarly, at this stage, it's fair to say: some viewers are determined to keep on watching, just to see how this grisly tale of war, political intrigue, and invading frozen zombie monsters (among other fantasy creatures) ultimately plays out.
Game of Thrones season six will air on HBO in 2016.