The season seven premiere of Game of Thrones set a new overnight audience record for pay TV giant Sky's Sky Atlantic network in the U.K.
The season opener drew about 2.83 million viewers for the 2 a.m. London time simulcast of the U.S. premiere on HBO and the 9 p.m. regular airing, according to overnight U.K. ratings data reported by Sky. That compared to an audience of close to 2.20 million for the season six opener, up 30 percent.
The combined viewership for the season seven opener was Sky Atlantic’s biggest overnight audience ever. Experts estimated that the total audience for the season premiere could reach 4.5 million viewers when including a full week of catch-up viewing.
The company said 115,000 people stayed up to watch the simulcast live, which was the largest live audience for a Sky Atlantic simulcast ever. Including those who recorded the simulcast, 2.04 million people viewed it. In addition, 788,000 viewers watched the 9 p.m. airing.
Game of Thrones also set a record for Italy’s Sky Atlantic, becoming the highest-viewed premiere ever for an international show on the network. The season seven debut attracted 570,000 viewers, an increase of 47 percent from the season six premiere. For Italy's 3 a.m. simulcast, 230,000 viewers tuned in, a 15.1 percent share of the market.
Sky Italia launched a successful marketing campaign for the premiere, with a two-day event around the new season at Milan’s Sforzesco Castle. More than 25,000 people showed up over the weekend for a variety of concerts, cosplay events and performances. And more than 2,000 attendees stayed at the castle for the live 3 a.m. viewing party.
21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake in Sky and is looking to take full ownership in a deal unveiled in December. U.K. regulators have been reviewing the deal.