'Game of Thrones' Season 6 Premiere Sets Australian Pay TV Ratings Record

Game of Thrones 601 Still 3 - H 2016
Courtesy of HBO

Over 1 million viewers are expected once time shift figures are added in.

The long-awaited Game of Thrones season six premiere has broken ratings records in Australia for pay TV giant Foxtel, becoming the most-watched program on Australian pay TV ever, figures from official ratings agency OzTAM show.  

More than 721,000 viewers tuned into two screenings on Monday, starting at 11 a.m. local time. The audience for the premiere was up 31 percent from the 2015 season opener.

Foxtel, jointly owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and telecom giant Telstra, has about 2.6 million subscribers and reaches 33 percent of Australian TV households. Foxtel director of television Brian Walsh said the result was "phenomenal."

“This is an absolutely incredible result and beyond our expectations," he said. "When you include [catch-up] viewing figures, as well as encores across the week, we’re forecasting the first episode will absolutely top over 1 million viewers, a phenomenal result by any measure."

With the show's season opener premiering in sync with its U.S. East Coast debut on a national holiday, 396,000 Australian viewers tuned in for the 11 a.m. showing. Another 275,000 watched in primetime at 7:30 p.m. local time.

By comparison, the top-rated show on Australian TV on Monday was cooking competition My Kitchen Rules, which pulled in 2.4 million viewers. Game of Thrones' figures mean it was close to the top 20 programs on Australian TV nationally.

While the uplift in viewing means more people are prepared to pay to watch the show, it hasn’t necessarily stopped the pirates. Piracy news site Torrent Freak said Monday that the season six premiere had reached 1 million downloads in half a day worldwide, with Australians accounting for 12.5 percent of those downloads over a 12-hour period.