At 9pm EST/PST on Sunday, HBO premiered the much anticipated final season of Game of Thrones. In terms of ratings, the night was monumental. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Season 8’s first episode boasted a total of 17.4 million viewers. This tops HBO’s viewership record, and the number can be broken down into two parts: 11.8 million people tuned in for the first-run telecast, and the remaining can be attributed to online viewership. Specifically, the popular streaming platform HBO Now saw an impressive 50 percent viewership increase. In total, the first episode surmounts previous cable records by half a million viewers.
This record should not come as a surprise to HBO. Game of Thrones, an epic fantasy adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series, “A Song of Fire and Ice,” is familiar with large audiences, and all for good reason. Its list of awards and nominations is as unending as it is impressive. Since airing in 2011, the series has received a total of 132 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, which have led to 38 wins. Of these, seven consecutive nominations were for Outstanding Drama. This prestige translates into mammoth audiences.
Over the past eight years, Game of Thrones has amassed a loyal yet growing following. Season 1 enjoyed 9.3 million viewers. This number grew to 11.6 million during Season 2, 14.4 million in Season 3, 19.1 million in Season 4, and the numbers keep climbing from there. Season 7 viewership amounted to a whopping 32.8 million viewers. Based on the first episode alone, it looks like Season 8 is on track to top this. With promises to resolve the myriad questions left unanswered at the end of Season 7 (of which “who will secure their place upon the Iron Throne” is most prominent), Season 8 of Game of Thrones will surely distinguish itself as a titanic television event.