Game of Thrones, for as long as it has aired on HBO, has scored impressive and even record ratings. Its first episode, back in 2010, did so well that it was renewed by HBO for a second season the next day. Since then, the series has broken its own ratings records countless times, with season premieres and finales, in particular, nearly always setting new highs for the series.
Indeed, the season premiere back in April set a new series high with 7.9 million viewers, breaking the record previously held by the season 5 finale, and season 5 premiere before that. And now, that record has been broken again.
According to Deadline, Sunday night’s season finale episode, titled “The Winds of Winter”, drew 8.89 million viewers, the largest television audience for Game of Thrones to date. That number represents a 16 percent increase over the previous week’s episode, and a 10 percent jump from the season five finale, which had aired one year earlier. This year’s finale had the advantage of not facing a deciding NBA Finals game head-to-head, as last year’s finale did. The last game of this year’s basketball playoffs aired opposite Episode 9, although “Winds of Winter” was up against the BET Awards.
The numbers indicate that Game of Thrones’ audience has grown significantly over time - whether that’s from viewers who have caught up with the old episodes recently, or simply started watching new ones in order to have some understanding of what their friends or coworkers are talking about all the time.
The ratings are especially impressive, for another reason. They take into account viewers watching the show on regular HBO channels only, and not the HBO Now streaming service. HBO Now was brand new at the launch of Season 5, but has matured significantly in the year since, drawing in nearly a million subscribers. It's significant that the series drew more TV viewers, even though quite a few people who used to be cable subscribers are now streaming ones. When the number is released for total viewers with streaming included, we will know if "The Winds of Winter" managed to overtake the 10.7 million viewers notched by this year's premiere.
True, it’s HBO, and ratings don’t matter in the way they do for a network. Nevertheless, it’s undoubtable that Game of Thrones is a juggernaut- one that HBO is going to miss when it’s gone.
Game of Thrones will return for season 7 in the spring of 2017 on HBO.