Game of Thrones, the HBO fantasy series that has taken the world by winter storm, has one-upped its own Iron Throne of ratings again with Season 6, which, USA Today reports, is up 15% from last year. The network has been helped not only by the network’s premium cable channel, but also by the streaming services that HBO provides — HBO Go and HBO Now.
According to USA Today, the ratings for Game of Thrones were up 6% for the Sunday premiere airing of each episode to an average of 7.3 million viewers. On Demand viewership is also up by about 4%. Any increase in ratings is good news, but when those numbers are combined with the numbers reported for the streaming services, the increase becomes much more staggering. The streaming ratings for HBO Go and HBO Now combined are up 70% from last year to approximately 2.5 million streams. These streaming numbers are calculated by a combination of views and time spent watching, according to USA Today.
These numbers are especially important, because critics have implied that HBO’s newer service, HBO Now, which allows viewers to subscribe to HBO without a cable subscription, is cannibalizing the network’s viewership. As CEO Richard Plepler told USA Today, that is not the case. He insists that HBO Now “doesn’t cannibalize anything on the network. It simply expands the audience’s opportunity to watch our programs. It’s all about expanding the pie.”
Game of Thrones‘ success is also impressive when compared on a week-to-week basis. On Sunday night, Episode 9 of Season 6 “Battle of the Bastards” managed to draw a 7.66 million viewers, up from the Episode 8 airing the previous Sunday, despite fierce competition from the NBA Game 7, which drew 30.8 million viewers, according to The Wrap.
Constantly one-upping the success of a long-running, epic and often shocking show is no easy task, and it comes with a price. According to Entertainment Weekly, Sunday’s “Battle of the Bastards” was one of the series’ more expensive episodes to date. The most heavily reported expense is the epic battle between Jon Snow’s army and the forces of Ramsay Bolton, which according to EW included 600 crew members, 500 extras, 70 horses, 25 days of shooting and 4 camera crews. Though HBO has not released an official budget for the episode, each episode of Game of Thrones Season 6 costs about $10 million, according to Time, which serves as a good indication of what an expensive episode might cost, if $10 million is normal. Clearly, however, the expense has paid off in the increased ratings for the popular drama.
Episode 10 of Game of Thrones, the final episode of Season 6, premieres this Sunday June 26th at 9PM ET on HBO, HBO Go and HBO Now.