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Game of thrones HBO hit delivered 17.4 million viewers on Sunday evening across multiple airings and including some streaming.
That makes the Game of thrones season 8 premiere the biggest telecast in HBO’s history and the most-watched scripted entertainment program of the year (the prior record holder was CBS’ The Big Bang Theory with 14.1 million viewers on Feb. 7) — despite HBO being available in far fewer homes than the broadcast network.
The number surpasses the show’s previous overnight record of 16.9 million viewers for the season 7 finale two years ago. The show didn’t surge quite as much from the season 7 premiere (16.1 million) as one might have expected, however. But the record is despite HBO losing Dish subscribers in a contract dispute last December (which HBO believes impacted the numbers), and certain streaming partners (such as Amazon, Hulu, Roku) not being counted in this first-round number. By comparison, the finale of HBO’s The Sopranos in 2007 had 11.9 million viewers.
Game of thrones is the extremely rare drama that has managed to grow its audience every single season (AMC’s Breaking Bad was another). AMC’s The Walking Dead used to top Game of Thrones in the ratings, but the zombie drama has recently fallen to around 5 million weekly viewers.
Last week the U.K.’s Daily Mail wrote a story claiming the return of Game of Thrones could rack up a billion viewers worldwide, but the truth is even HBO doesn’t know how many viewers their show gets globally given all the various methods of distribution. The real global number will be far closer to 100 million. (NCIS was calculated in 2016 to be the “most watched drama in the world” with only 47 million viewers).
Still, Game of thrones is very likely the world’s biggest show at this point. GoT‘s seventh season grew to average about 32 million viewers per episode after months of streaming viewer ship was added.
And if this kind of number is what the season premiere is doing … what’s the May 19th series finale going to get?