6:51am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Premiere Earns New Record
HBO's Game of Thrones returned with another ratings record Sunday, one it achieved while technically holding steady in its initial linear telecast.
The sixth-season premiere itself was even with the most recent record, bringing in nearly 8 million viewers during its 9 p.m. premiere telecast Sunday. But with two encores and initial streaming data from services HBO Go and HBO Now, the episode gained a record 10.7 million viewers. (That number is 400,000 north of the comparable number from the previous record.)
Thrones' last original telecast, the June 2015 finale of the fifth season, raised the bar for premiere telecasts. The hourlong episode fetched a same-day high of 8.11 million viewers — 10.3 million initial gross viewers. It was the second time that the show reached highs last season, ever-so-slightly raising the bar set by the 8-million-strong premiere.
The time since last season has seen HBO drive significant audience to its over-the-top HBO Now service. Those viewers, not cable subscribers, are not measured by Nielsen.
A more accurate audience tally is several weeks away. HBO declines to report ratings before comprehensive live-plus-seven day returns. And Thrones, like the rest of HBO's originals roster, sees substantial gains from HBO Go and HBO Now plays, as well as the ample encores on the entire HBO cable suite.
All told, the most recent season of Thrones averaged just north of 20 million viewers per episode. It's not a shabby feat for a show that debuted five years ago to just 2.2 million on premiere night.
Sunday's season-six premiere also quickly amassed a pretty solid viewership from pirates. Thrones, dubbed the most-pirated show on TV for several years running, has already seen more than 1 million download the episode — per TorrentFreak.