Game of Thrones is officially the jewel in the current HBO crown. That, in and of itself, should come as no surprise to anyone. The cultural juggernaut premiered its fourth season to a record American viewing audience of 6.6 million, making it the series’ most watched episode, and the most watched episode of anything on HBO since final ever episode of The Sopranos pulled in a staggering 11.9 million viewers back in 2007.
With replays under its belt, the final tally of viewers who saw the episode reached a grand total of 8.2 million viewers. The first-run figure of 6.2 million more than trumps last seasons’ premiere, as well as its finale. And it eclipses Game of Thrones previous most-watched episode (which is last seasons’ “The Climb” and NOT “The Rains of Castamere” as some of you may be shocked to learn), which set the bar at 5.5 million viewers.
This avalanche of viewers was not simply confined to traditional TV screens either. HBO’s online streaming service, HBO Go, was inundated with viewers attempting to watch the episode, to the point where the service buckled under the strain. The overwhelming demand saw many users greeted with a Fatal Error message. Though this isn’t the first time demand has exceeded capabilities, with last months True Detective finale running into similar technical difficulties.
Even in Australia the ratings numbers broke all kinds of records. The episode debuted on Foxtel’s Showcase channel to a viewing audience of 315,000 viewers, an amount nearly 40% higher than the show’s average viewing number last season. This number is, of course, a combined total across two screenings, one at 3:30pm, and again at 7:30pm. But the individual session ratings still rank the show as the second and fourth most watched broadcasts on Foxtel for Monday, and is the only program to appear on the list that isn’t either sport or animation. Numbers like these probably vindicates Foxtel’s somewhat draconian deal that effectively makes it the only legal source of the show in Australia.
You can legally see Game of Thrones on Showcase every Monday. Or if you’re somewhat crafty with the internet, you can do something and make it appear on your screens via slightly more morally grey means.