For as long as Game of Thrones has existed, the continual breaking of ratings records has been a recurring part of the real-world story for HBO's hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series.
The Game of Thrones season 5 premiere set a new series' high in 2015, only for the season 5 finale to break that same record. Other episodes have broken series ratings records too. Even the trailer for season 6 set a new viewership record. Game of Thrones has even regularly broken records for piracy in the past. While HBO is a subscription service and ratings may not “matter” like on a broadcast network, the network has always been eager to tout such numbers.
Game of Thrones' season 6 premiere has set another record for the series - but with an asterisk. EW is reporting that overall viewership of the premiere was 10.7 million, a 9 percent gain over the season 5 premiere and yet another ratings record for the show overall. That number includes the premiere itself on HBO, the first two repeats and streams from HBO GO and HBO Now.
However, when it comes to the on-air ratings of the Game of Thrones season 6 premiere, as counted by Nielsen, the number is 7.9 million, which actually represents a 1 percent drop over the 2015 premiere. That gap rises to 4 percent when the first two repeats are taken into consideration. (Those ratings do not take into account those who watched the show as part of HBO’s “free weekend.”)
So should HBO be panicking? Not at all. That’s because for one thing, it’s HBO; there’s no advertising and ratings aren’t the be-all and end-all. Plus, the overall number of eyeballs is actually higher. And there’s a good reason for that: The standalone streaming service HBO Now was brand new a year ago, debuting along with season 5 of Game of Thrones. Now, the service has a much larger base of subscribers - 800,000, as of February - so it stands to reason that a lot more people are streaming Season 6 than they were Season 5 (including some who watched the show on cable in past years).
Now, if numbers had been down across the board? HBO might have something to worry about. But the widespread popularity of Game of Thrones, as of now, shows little sign of abating.
Game of Thrones season 6 continues next Sunday with ‘Home’ @9pm on HBO.