‘House of the Dragon’ Draws Largest Audience Ever for HBO Original Series Debut

So yeah, Sunday's "House of the Dragon" series premiere was larger than 2011's "Game of Thrones" launch.
Emily Carey and Rhys Ifans in HBO's "House of the Dragon"
Emily Carey and Rhys Ifans in HBO's "House of the Dragon"
Ollie Upton / HBO

HBO’s “House of the Dragon” premiere brought the fire in terms of TV ratings.

The “Game of Thrones” prequel series launched to 9.986 million (you can call it 10 million) multiplatform viewers on Sunday, a significant increase from the O.G. show’s own start. Of course, “GoT” debuted more than a decade ago to very little built-in fanfare — and in a much different television-viewership environment — as only the fans of George R.R. Martin’s books really even knew the material ahead of launch. That would soon change, and “Game of Thrones” concluded as HBO’s most-watched show ever.

Well, “House of the Dragon” also has a best-ever claim: Sunday’s debut marked the largest audience for any new original series in the history of HBO, according to HBO.

“It was wonderful to see millions of ‘Game of Thrones’ fans return with us to Westeros last night. ‘House of the Dragon’ features an incredibly talented cast and crew who poured their heart and soul into the production, and we’re ecstatic with viewers’ positive response,” HBO & HBO Max Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys said Monday of Sunday night’s big numbers. “We look forward to sharing with audiences what else George, Ryan, and Miguel have in store for them this season.”

The first episode of “Game of Thrones” had 4.152 million “live” viewers back in 2011. Including HBO Go and counting about 90 days beyond the series premiere, Season 1 episodes ended up averaging 9.305 million viewers apiece. (HBO Now did not enter the picture until the “Game of Thrones” Season 5 premiere. Now launched in April 2015; HBO Max essentially took over in May 2020, though Now and Go were recently reinstated.)

“Game of Thrones” was one of those series that grew and grew. The Season 2 premiere grossed 6.278 million night-of viewers, and the season’s cross-platform gross (again, including about three months of viewership beyond the season premiere) was 11.583 million. Season 3 started off with 6.718 million Live + Same Day viewers, but ended up tallying 14.352 million per episode with that generous catch-up viewing, which is how HBO measures its programming these days. The third season of “Game of Thrones” included the infamous “Red Wedding” episode.

Season 4 (again, still without HBO Now) launched to 8.186 million viewers; by the end, episodes averaged 19.073 million viewers across linear HBO and streaming HBO Go. This was the season when the show’s finales began to outpace the premieres in terms of appointment-TV viewing: the Season 4 finale posted 9.325 million “live” viewers.

“Thrones” Season 5, which finally included HBO Now, initially bowed to 9.773 million Live + Same Day viewers. By the finale, the fifth-season episodes climbed to an average of 20.231 million multiplatform viewers. The “Game of Thrones” Season 6 premiere drew 10.735 million viewers. The multiplatform gross for that season was 25.690 million.

Season 7 jumped again, with 16.603 million premiere viewers and a gross of 32.758 million for the season. The final “Game of Thrones” season, Season 8, launched to 17.915 million viewers. The all-in per-episode gross was a whopping 45.985 million viewers.

If you’re wondering, no, “The Sopranos” is not HBO’s second-most-watched series ever on a season-by-season basis — at least, not since its fifth season. Since 2004 (the “Sopranos” finale aired on June 10, 2007), a year HBO cited in a recent press release, the silver medal belongs to “Euphoria” Season 2. We told you, TV viewership is totally different these days — the Zendaya vehicle has only even aired 19 total episodes, but overall access to HBO’s programming via the advent and adoption of streaming is far greater.

Episode 1 of “House of the Dragon” introduced the family of King Viserys Targaryen and the matter of his succession. And yes, there were dragons.

New episodes of “House of the Dragon” will debut each Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max, leading up to the October 23 finale.

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