Like it did with Boardwalk Empire in September, HBO just renewed Game of Thrones moments after the ratings for the premiere episode were in. For Game of Thrones, those ratings were solid, not great. But, also like with Boardwalk Empire, HBO invested in elaborate sets and designs in re-creating the world from George R.R. Martin’s books, so a second season was considered a sure thing. And while HBO brass pay attention to ratings, the numbers have never been the deciding factor in the network’s renewal decisions as proven by the pickups of shows like Treme, Bored to Death and In Treatment. “We are delighted by the way David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought George R.R. Martin’s amazing book series to the screen, and thrilled by the support of the media and our viewers,” HBO’s head of programming Michael Lombardo said.
In its heavily promoted premiere Sunday night, HBO’s new fantasy series landed between True Blood and Boardwalk Empire ratings-wise. For its debut 9 PM airing, Game of Thrones drew 2.2 million viewers, down 54% from the September premiere of Boardwalk Empire but up 57% from the 1.4 million who tuned in for the debut of True Blood three years ago. Game of Thrones is closer to True Blood in several aspects: it also is a genre series and, like True Blood, it didn’t have a strong promotional platform on HBO. The trailers for Game of Thrones ran mainly during the miniseries Mildred Pierce, which was more female-skewing and was seen by under 1 million viewers for each original episode. For comparison, Boardwalk Empire was promoted during True Blood, which averaged 6 million-7 million viewers every Sunday. Encouragingly, in its second airing Sunday, Game of Thrones drew 1.2 million viewers, 60% of its premiere audience. Boardwalk Empire‘s audience for the second outing was 1.4 million, or 29%. HBO’s research folk registered a major influx of young males for the 10 PM airing. The highly watched NBA playoff games are considered a culprit for the depressed levels at 9 PM and the spiked viewership for the rerun. Overall, the premiere of Game of Thrones averaged 4.2 million viewers on Sunday for the three airings vs. 7.1 million for Boardwalk Empire in September. Additionally, the Game of Thrones premiere launched with an average of 743,000 on Sky Atlantic, breaking a ratings record for the the British satellite channel.
The Season 1 cast includes (in alphabetical order): Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Aidan Gillen, Jack Gleeson, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Harry Lloyd, Richard Madden, Rory McCann, Jason Momoa, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams. Game of Thrones is executive produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; co-executive producers, Carolyn Strauss, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis, Ralph Vicinanza and George R.R. Martin; producers, Mark Huffam and Frank Doelger.