'Game of Thrones' Draws Series-High Ratings With Penultimate Episode

The HBO juggernaut scored its biggest linear audience ever a week ahead of the series finale.
Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones'

Game of Thrones set another ratings record with its next-to-last episode.

The HBO juggernaut gathered its biggest audience ever for a first airing of an episode Sunday, drawing an all-in figure of 18.4 million viewers. That's about 600,000 more than the previous high of 17.8 million for the season's third episode.

The show's initial tune-in of 12.48 million viewers is also a series high, beating the previous best of 12.07 million for the season seven finale in 2017.

The final season, in fact, has delivered four of the five most-watched episodes in Game of Thrones history, in terms of initial tune-in. Episode three, "The Long Night," and the season premiere also drew the previous two largest audiences in series history when same-night replays and streaming are factored in: 17.8 million and 17.4 million viewers.

Streaming and replay numbers for Sunday's divisive episode, "The Bells," grew the same-night audience by about 47 percent over the initial airing. That's in line with the bump for other episodes this season, which have risen by about 50 percent with replays and streaming.

HBO also says that to date, Game of Thrones' final season has averaged a ridiculous 43 million viewers per episode with continued streaming of past installments. That is more than 10 million viewers ahead of season seven's average of 32.8 million — or, put another way, the difference is bigger than the show's entire first-season audience.  

The linear ratings for Game of Thrones once again outdrew everything else in the Nielsen-measured TV universe Sunday night. The next most-watched show, ABC's American Idol (7.89 million viewers), trailed by about 4.6 million people. As a premium channel, HBO doesn't care about demographic ratings so much, but Game of Thrones' 5.4 rating among adults 18-49 was more than twice that of the second-highest show, TNT's Toronto Raptors-Philadelphia 76ers NBA playoff game (2.5).

Following Game of Thrones on Sunday, HBO's Barry drew 1.87 million viewers, and the series finale of Veep drew season highs of 1.1 million initial viewers and 1.6 million with a replay and streaming added.

Follow THR.com/GameofThrones for more coverage of the series and THR.com/Ratings for more numbers.

May 14, 9:30 a.m. Updated with streaming figures and ratings for Barry and Veep.