'Game of Thrones' premiere ratings are in

Mark-Addy

Image Credit: HBO

The heavily hyped debut of Game of Thrones couldn’t come close to the premiere of HBO’s last big drama series, Boardwalk Empire, yet it still turned in a solid number Sunday night.

The first episode delivered a decent 2.2 million viewers for its premiere airing, then a rather strong 1.2 million for its first encore (the NBA playoff game between the Celtics and Knicks might have pushed some viewership to the second airing), and another 800,000 for the third telecast for an overall healthy total of 4.2 million. HBO then aired Thrones six times across all its channels Monday night, and those numbers will be added to this post later today.

Thrones first telecast was down 54 percent from the premiere of 2010’s Boardwalk (4.8 million) which received an immediate second season renewal. Yet HBO always takes into account what Sunday show was used to ramp up viewers to the new program’s premiere, and Thrones had a weak platform — Mildred Pierce, which averaged around 1 million viewers, a number Thrones more than doubled.

What’s perhaps the closest ratings comparison to a fantasy series like Thrones is HBO’s other genre drama, True Blood. A prestigious crime drama Boardwalk is much more in the traditional HBO viewership wheelhouse. Compared to the vampire show, Thrones did really well. Blood only opened with 1.4 million viewers, and similarly had no real platform to launch from, but then went on to grow week after week into a major hit for the network.

Also, and this is important, in the UK the premiere did really well — Thrones set a Sky Atlantic ratings record with 750,000 viewers, beating the previous record holder, which was … Boardwalk Empire.

So what does all this mean for Thrones? The premiere number is good, not great. HBO would have loved for the first airing of Thrones to have been in the 3 million range, but will definitely take anything in the 2s. The next question: How many viewers will stick around next week?

UPDATE: Thrones repeat airings on Monday added another 1.2 million to the viewership tally (this is definitely considered good, btw).

HUGE UPDATE: HBO renews Game of Thrones for second season!

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PREVIOUS: HBO confident Game of Thrones will get a second season

Comments (87 total) Add your comment
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  • j

    I’ll take it. I will also take a second season renewal, please.

    • debi

      i loved it- so much so that i’m replacing ‘borgias’ with ‘game of thrones’…gotta say i tried ‘boardwalk empire’ too but gave up after the 3rd episode.

      • Bella

        Man I can’t wait to see this series, it looks amizang. It seems like theres tons of amizang fantasy novels out there but for some reason all the movies and shows in the genre aren’t well done at all (with the exception of lotr). It’s a shame, really

  • JonathanL

    The European numbers have been VERY encouraging, and this fan will buy the Blu-Ray Day One to help this show move forward. The US numbers weren’t explosive, but I was fearing overhyped disaster, and it certainly wasn’t that.

    • Lee

      Yes it was that. Overhyped and the premiere wasn’t that good to support it. I predict the ratings will go down even more.

      • Kevin Oneil

        Unlikely Lee – the premiere was a real “basic info dump” episode. From episode 2 on, and especially when it gets to episodes 4-6, this story will explode and viewers will flock.

      • Joey

        Given that you can never accurately translate a book into a movie, and given that the first book alone is nearly 1000 pages, I’d say HBO did about the best job possible. Martin’s work builds slowly and then snowballs into a flurry of chaos and intrigue. If the first episode were “mind blowing” it wouldn’t have stayed true to the books at all. There are plenty of 2 hour long action flicks out there for people who lack the attention span to follow a very in depth series like GoT will be.

  • Martin

    The other point HBO should consider is the strong interest in international markets. GoT already has a strong fanbase in quite a lot of countries, who can’t get HBO and want one of their stations to pick up the rights.

    • Fedo

      you’re right, I had to use the torrent to watch the episode.

  • SciyuFiyu

    It is enormously downloaded via torrents (maybe the biggest pilot numbers ever, I have been following those numbers for five years now and series in their most popular times didn’t have huge numbers as GoT S01E01 had).
    Also on SkyAtlantic in UK it lured 720k, almost a double than Boardwalk Empire. I am pretty sure it will be huge.

    • j

      Torrent numbers are a BAD thing. More people downloading from torrents = less people subscribing to HBO.

      • Azurecobalt

        But torrent numbers may translate to DVD sales. Note that I’m not condoning piracy at all.

      • qqq

        Actually, while illegal downloads are obviously not nearly as good for HBO as legal viewers, they’re still better than nothing, because they generate considerable word of mouth and thus good publicity.

      • Tarc

        And sometimes (and not infrequently) torrents PRODUCE HBO subscriptions and DVD sales. Most people now subscribe to HBO specifically for one show (the rest of the week is totally not worth it). Once someone knows that they are going to love a show, they subscribe. I purchase HBO for the True Blood season each year after seeing a free version (ON DEMAND specifically) of the pilot, for instance.

      • TPR

        This is because the young, predominantly male demographic that GoT primarily appeals to are increasingly getting rid of cable altogether and sticking to Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming options. As a member of that demographic, I wish that there were a way to pay HBO a few bucks per episode to stream them, or even pay the $10-15/month HBO subscription fee without having to pay for a ton of other channels that I don’t want or need. HBO makes awesome shows, but they need to get with the times and allow people to buy their content without having to shell out an additional $60/month for basic cable. I fully plan on buying GoT Season 1 on DVD when it comes out, and encouraging my friends to do so as well, because I would very much like to see more seasons made.

      • J’

        I am one of those people who translate from torrent to DVD sales. I won’t subscribe to HBO (not enough other programming to interest me for the cost), but I have bought many of the shows on DVD.

      • Andrew

        @TPR I believe this is actually coming in May with HBO:GO. It will be Free to HBO subscribers, but I believe they will offer it to non-subs for a price

      • Lisa London

        l agree. Downloading or streaming often equal dvd buys. Up until recently, you had to wait a long time to get new US shows abroad hence the streaming. It’s not a question of money but of timeliness. Then social media peer promotion and dvd purchases folllow.

      • Joey

        I torrent many shows before I buy them. GoT is definitely a show I will be buying on Blu-Ray. Nobody wants to spend $50 on a series that may or may not be good without watching some of it first, and nobody really wants to order HBO these days….

        The fact that GoT had 2 million viewers, and the only people who generally have HBO get it in packaged deals–Tacked onto the fact that S01/E01 is currently a hugely popular torrent shows that the DVD/Blue-Ray of the first season will probably be huge.

      • Nez

        WE DO NOT HAVE IT IN AUSTRALIA. torrenting is an only option when it’s not even here yet. which is cruel! people who are torrenting when it has not even aired yet are people who WILL buy it on dvd.

    • Felagund

      As I have elaborated elsewhere, Game of Thrones is a _brand_. The TV show is just one product of it, there are also merchandise stuff, DVD sales, etc. HBO’s main profit is from these, not from the subscribers, I guess…
      Neither of the things above can be torrented, quite in the contrary, people, who download the series, are more prone to buy DVD-s and other stuff.
      So I won’t judge torrenting as overall bad…

    • Willy

      I was ready to get my hands on the story when I read what you thought was great about it, but when I got to the parts you csdeinor negatives, I lost my impetus. I don’t want to spend time on a book that reads like a prologue! But I am intrigued but, but. Oh what to do. I mean it WAS created into an HBO series oh the things I debate when daring to fill my precious, limited reading time. Lol.Well thank you for bringing this book into my periphery.

    • Ntwanano

      Game of Thrones is a full series, not just a miienirses.I think it has a short first season even by HBO standards (looks like 8 episodes), but I’m pretty sure it will go on beyond that (if it does well, that is, which I’m sure it will).

  • DanH

    Ratings in Europe are through the roof. I bet HBO takes that into consideration also.

    • RitariKnight

      You do realize that the UK does not constitute the whole Europe. It’s only been on the UK, Rep. of Ireland, and those countries that get HBO Central Europe. That is 15 countries of 50. And as far as I know, the only ratings we have from Europe are the UK. They were great, sure, but to say that ratings in Europe are high is wrong. They are high the UK. The others will come soon (pun intended).

      • DanH

        I guess I could have stated, that “So far, the ratings we’ve gotten from Europe are through the roof. I am not referring to any of the rating that haven’t been released yet. Nor am I referring to those countries that have not yet aired the show.” Last I checked the UK is in Europe. Believe it or not, over here we often referr to something that takes place in -Let’s say- Texas, as taking place in the US (without specifying the state). Especially in conversation. This is not à scholarly or legal forum.

      • Lisa London

        DanH, you are my hero.

  • JH

    That’s solid. Can’t complain. It will pick up steam via word-of-mouth once they’ve fleshed out the characters and provided some history (easy to do in a novel, but tedious in a tv show.)

  • Jeremy

    What may be more important is how many additional subscribers to HBO–like myself–this will draw. I would expect those numbers to rise as the show continues, especially since the first episode was shown during a “free preview” weekend.

    • Jennifer

      That’s how I managed to catch it. Money’s tight right now, so Game of Thrones won’t convince me to add HBO, but I’ll definitely be looking for the dvd release.

      • Susan

        It has been a bit since I finished the books, but yeah some of those what I’ll call sublte changes did strike me. Nothing totally changing but little tweaks here and there. Although Jamie did seem quite a bit off compared to what I remembered.It would be curious to know if these changes were made by HBO or Martin himself

  • K

    Next week is Easter Sunday so I don’t know if the #s will possibly build, but I’m hoping that with the DVD release, this show will build season to season, the way true blood did.

    • DanH

      Any info on when we can expect DVD release?

      • K

        Could be remembering wrong but I think HBO usually releases DVDs a little before the next season airs. So I guess we’d expect it sometime next winter?

  • RitariKnight

    The actual number of viewers was quite a lot bigger since the ratings doesn’t count free viewers. Last weekend was an open cable weekend, and a lot of people had the chance to watch Thrones for free. How many of those have now decided to order HBO to continue watching GoT remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant increase in ratings already next week.

    Then again, ratings aren’t the all-in gauge for a show’s success for pay TV channels like HBO as it is for network channels and their shows, so I’d say these figures are very good.

    • James

      Im pretty sure these ratings count the free viewers too. They did for Boardwalk Empires premiere.

      • RitariKnight

        That’s not normal procedure, but it’s possible I guess. If that’s the case, then the ratings are a bit poor.

      • jodipo

        no, they are not a bit poor. They are not poor in any way

    • Drew

      Nielsen ratings are only those with HBO subscriptions, so the free HBO weekend has no effect on the ratings.

  • Michelle

    Let’s hope that HBO takes everything into consideration. I think the show deserves the same opportunity True Blood got. A chance to build an audience. Do the right thing, HBO.

  • miztaz

    Loved it, loved it, loved it. This series was one of the reasons we dropped Showtime for HBO.

    I thought it was extremely well done, all the money they spent was up there on the screen and the casting was terrific (even though I’m not a reader of the books).

  • BethanyA

    I watched it On Demand because I had nothing better to do. I loved it! I’m hooked and convinced my two co-workers to check it out. I feel I’ve done my duty to stimulate the cinematic economy.

  • Zturk

    I think viewership will grow and can Ew put up some of the international numbers because I saw on some website that it was the Highest ever for british chanel sky and is doing great elsewhere also.

    • James Hibberd

      Added!

  • Zturk

    Also I also would pay just to have HBO and not all the other cable packages

  • Kelly

    The show was so well done, it deserves a second season HBO!!! Please give it a chance!!! I’ve told so many people to watch and they’ve all enjoyed it, how do they take On Demand/DVR viewings into account?

    • Godstar

      Normally they count it as a half or quarter point depending on when you watch it, as compared to a full point for watching it live. The whole ratings scheme is kind of bizarre.

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