Back almost two years after Season 7 premiered, Sunday’s “Winterfell” Season 8 debut snared 17.4 million viewers for the premium cabler on-air and HBOGo and HBO Now
Even with a brief leak on DirecTV Now earlier on Sunday and the lon-going lack of HBO on Dish now, that’s up 4% from the Season 7 “The Dragon and the Wolf” ender of August 27, 2017 once all the premium cabler’s linear and digital platforms are added up. An all-time best for any HBO series, the record breaker of last night’s season opener was also way up from the previous season opener record holder of Season 7’s “Dragonstone” of July 16, 2017.
A point that HBO will undoubtedly and rightly emphasis is the huge surge in digital participation that the Season 8 debt had. Reflecting the shifting habits of viewers in this Peak TV era, last night the best night ever that the now WarnerMedia-run premium cabler has ever had. Specifically, GoT was up almost 50% over the Season 7 ender and a whooping 97% over the Season 7 opener on HBOGo and HBO Now.
Just on linear, the first of the six-episode Season 8 run rose 12% over that Season 7 premiere. Again, just on linear, last night’s episode took a dip of 7% next to the Season 7 finale, with that carriage dispute with Dish likely a not insignificant factor on the margins.
Rising almost weekly from episode-to-episode and year-to-year, Season 7 of the David Benioff and D.B. Weiss EP’d multiple Emmy winner based on George R.R. Martin’s writings actually debuted much later than the series had in past years. Starting in Season 1 in 2011 and all the way to Season 6 in 2016, the Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and Kit Harington-led drama opened in late March or mid-April.
In fact, the premiere of Season 5 almost matched the Season 8 premiere with its April 12, 2015 airing.
The long wait and Emmy victories between the penultimate season and the eighth and final season has clearly deepened and broadened GoT‘s culture relevance and overall appeal.
Over the last week or so the series and its return has become a constant touchstone and reference as the public release of the Mueller Report looms, Disney unveiled their streaming service strategy and launch date, and the Trump administration saw forced resignations and more firings over immigration policy. Add to that GoT shout outs in relation to the general election in Israel, Brexit chaos in the UK and Europe continuing and the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents going to war in Hollywood and the end of the show has spread across the cultural landscape in a way the small screen hasn’t seen since the almost equally name checked Breaking Bad wrapped up its five season run on September 29, 2013 – an eon ago in the fast changing TV environment.
As this morning also shows around the water cooler, on social media and otherwise, it probably didn’t hurt that the table setting David Nutter directed and Dave Hill penned Winterfell Season 8 debut was one of the best episodes of the series so far, at least in my opinion.
In fact, the real question may become not if Game of Thrones continues to reach new audience heights as it heads towards the May 19 series finale. From the live same day results to the delayed viewing to come on DVRs and more, the real game here could be how high will it go on the path to finding a new occupant on the Iron Throne.