As HBO tracks down which screener recipient caused this weekend’s leaking of the first four episodes of Game Of Thrones’ Season 5, the situation does not seem to have hurt HBO’s ratings: Sunday’s opener logged a series-best 7.99 million viewers.
Last June, GoT‘s Season 4 wrapup drew 7.1 million viewers for its 9 PM airing – up 32% from the 5.4 million who watched the series’ Season 3 finale a year earlier and an improvement on the 6.6 million who tuned in for the Season 4 premiere on April 6, 2014. Over two plays that same night, the Game Of Thrones S4 finale pulled in 9.3 million viewers.
Of Sunday night’s Season 5 premiere crowd, 5.32 million fell into the 18-49 demographic, and 2.64 million came from the 18-34 crowd, while 5.25 million fell into the older 25-54 age bracket.
Last year’s season starter crashed HBO Go, set a ratings record for the show and produced the second-best result HBO had seen since 11.9 million watched the premiere of The Sopranos‘ series finale in 2007. GoT’s record got broken that May when an episode a new series high of 7.2 million viewers.
Over the weekend, HBO issued a statement addressing the GoT leak: “Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of Game of Thrones originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them. We’re actively assessing how this breach occurred.”
The four episodes from the fantasy drama’s 10-episode fifth season surfaced on torrent sites in standard definition. According to TorrentFreak, the episodes were downloaded more than 100,000 times within the first three hours. The premium cabler just made GoT available to non-subscribers via HBO Now and Sling TV and last night premiered the show simultaneously in 170 countries — which, in theory, would help wrangle piracy.