11:21am PT by Mikey O'Connell
TV Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Finale Hits Record High With 16.5 Million Viewers
Game of Thrones' seventh season solidified it as the biggest show on TV — and Sunday's finale further cemented that status.
The abbreviated penultimate run, just seven episodes, has been averaging an astonishing 31 million viewers per episode once live, time-shifted, on-demand and streaming plays are tallied. That's up 34 percent from the previous record-shattering season in 2016. As for Sunday's finale, the last episode that will air for potentially 16 months, HBO logged another all-time high 16.5 million viewers with live tune-in and night-of streams.
The final episode of the seventh season marked a 13 percent increase from the previous mark set two weeks earlier (10.7 million viewers), and a 36 percent gain over last year’s finale (8.9 million viewers). It was also up 19 percent from this seaons’s debut, which clocked in at 10.1 million viewers.
Records came on an almost weekly basis this season, starting with the July 16 return that brought in more than 16 million viewers across platforms on premiere night. The linear ratings alone have been unprecedented for the pay cable network. Two weeks before the finale, a record 10.7 million viewers tuned in live to watch Game of Thrones on the channel.
At this point, an estimated 90 percent of HBO's U.S. subscribers watch Game of Thrones. And while the lack of any advertisers on the pay service takes the series out of the traditional "demo" conversation, it is now unquestionably both higher-rated and a bigger audience draw than AMC's The Walking Dead. Its latest live-plus-7 ratings, for example, give it a 6.6 rating among adults 18-49. And that's before the majority of the series' viewers (i.e., streaming and on-demand) are even taken into account.
Game of Thrones' ratings trajectory has been somewhat astronomical. In 2015, it topped The Sopranos as HBO's most-watched series ever when it crossed the 18.2 million viewer mark. That has the current season pacing to top the peak of The Sopranos by 60 percent.
The series has added significant sums each season, meaning the eighth and final run (likely in early 2019) could still outperform this one.