‘Game Of Thrones’ smashes records as HBO bosses contemplate spin-offs

The series eight premiere of Game Of Thrones on Sunday (14 April) smashed ratings records for US cable channel HBO and UK pay-TV operator Sky. 

The drama, which returned after an almost two-year break for its final series on HBO, captured 17.4m across the linear channel, catch-up service HBO Go and domestic SVOD platform HBO Now. The linear premiere alone was watched by around 11.8m on Sunday.

In comparison, the series seven premiere on 16 July 2017 garnered 16.1m viewers in total, of which 10.1m were linear viewers.

Sunday’s premiere marked the most streaming activity ever experienced by HBO, whose HBO Now platform saw a reported 50% spike in viewing and a 97% increase on the series seven premiere.

According to HBO’s figures, Game Of Thrones has built its average audience with each series. While series one averaged around 9.3m viewers per episode in 2011, series six drew 25.7m and series seven captured 32.8m.

Over in the UK, Game Of Thrones aired on Sky both at 2am, a simulcast of the US premiere, and again at 9pm on Monday (15 April). While the linear premiere was watched live by 192,000, another 2.5m watched the premiere on demand before 9pm that day. Only 698,000 watched the 9pm broadcast on Sky.

Altogether, the show captured a total overnight audience of 3.4m – marking the largest overnight audience ever for Sky’s entertainment channels, and up 20% on the series seven premiere (2.8m) in July 2017.

It is believed that viewing figures for both Sky and HBO will increase considerably over the next two weeks.

Sunday’s premiere episode ran 54 minutes in length – one of the shorter episodes of the six-part final series. Later episodes are expected to run to around 80 minutes in length, much like latter episodes of series seven.

The series will come to an end on 19 May.

HBO has said it is going to start shooting a pilot for a Game Of Thrones spin-off entitled The Long Night this summer. However, HBO programming president Casey Bloys recently told US outlet Deadline that the channel, which is now owned by AT&T, is “not just the network of Game Of Thrones“.

“If you think about what has aired between the last season of Game of Thrones and the current season, we have Westworld, Succession, Sharp Objects, The Deuce, My Brilliant Friend, The Night Of, Leftovers, Barry, Veep, High Maintenance, John Oliver, Bill Maher, not to mention the docs, Hard Knocks, The Shop, and that’s going to continue going forward,” he said.

“I’m not going to sit here and say, oh, it’s no big deal. Game of Thrones is a very big show for us, but we’re not just the network of Game of Thrones. There’s a lot of really high quality, really great shows that we do, and that’s going to continue. If you look at the schedule – with Euphoria and Watchmen and The Nevers, and His Dark Materials – we have more than we’ve ever had in the works. I will personally be sad to see Game of Thrones go. As a fan, I love it, but as usual, HBO will survive and we will go on.”

Former NBC Entertainment boss Bob Greenblatt recently took the reins of HBO parent group WarnerMedia. He has said the network will remain at 150 hours of content this year, signalling that it will be cautious around expanding the slate too rapidly, as initially expected by AT&T following the merger.

“We want to be very thoughtful about that and not just pick up series right and left just because that’s what our business now demands,” he said.

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