Turns out HBO’s programming gamble paid off big time. Their flagship series Game of Thrones returned to screens last night after the longest hiatus in the show’s history, leaving behind its tradition Spring return, when TV viewership is generally at its peak, in favor of a summer premiere. But if summer is the slow season, that just means there’s nothing standing in the way of the goliath series and its rabid fanbase, and it seems the long wait only made fans even hungrier for the winds of winter, because Game of Thrones returned to series-high ratings for a first-run telecast with an average 10.1 million viewers. And that’s not even the full scope of it. Adding in the DVR viewership from initial streaming reports, the premiere tally grows to 16.1 million viewers.
That is insane. Even by Game of Thrones standards. It’s a 50% increase from last year’s Season 6 premiere, still an impressive 27% boost if you only count the linear viewership, and easily breaks the record to become HBO’s most watched premiere from any series to date. Both Season 5 and Season 6 drew in roughly 8 million viewers, and prior to Sunday’s episode, last year’s finale was the most-watched live-plus-same day telecast with a total 8.9 million viewers.
If you’re wondering how that stacks up to HBO’s other series, Game of Thrones surpassed The Sopranos as the network’s most-watched series in 2014. Last year’s Westworld finale drew in a series-high 3.6 million viewers across viewing platforms.
The record smashing debut of ‘Dragonstone’ continues Game of Thrones’ trend of increasing viewership with each new season — a rare feat for any series. Factoring in linear views, live-plus-three and live-plus-seven day views, encore episodes, and VOD audiences, Season 6 earned a massive audience with an average 25.7 million viewers.
In addition to breaking the hell out of the viewership records, Sunday’s premiere was also the show’s most-tweeted episode ever. No small thanks to Ed Sheeran’s cameo, which drove roughly 7% of the social media conversation. Overall, it was an 18% increase from the twittersphere engagement for last season.