Game of Thrones finally returned to our eager eyeballs again this past Sunday after another difficult nine and a half month wait—a particularly tough wait if you live in the Northeast or any other cold weather location that got slapped around by Old Man Winter—with the first episode of season five, “The Wars to Come” (read our review here).
Before the first episode arrived, however, a bit of a problem arose when the first four episodes of the season leaked online. When you think about the amount of time and effort that many people put into producing Thrones, all relying on only ten short hours of the entire year to make that work worth it, you understand how the first four of ten episodes ending up online before the first episode has even aired (said to have been downloaded over one million times) could be devastating.
But Game of Thrones is a different kind of beast than most shows. Not only did the new season debut strong, but it set a new series high.
According to the Nielsen ratings estimates, “The Wars to Come” landed about 8 million viewers for its first airing. That’s over a million more than its season four premiere last year, which had 6.84 million viewers. The number is also said to be around 800,000 more than any other episode of Game of Thrones yet, believe it or not. The only show on cable with higher numbers is AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Nielsen numbers don’t matter nearly as much as they used to. These are just the numbers for the initial airing of the first episode—there’s still millions of people who will watch the episode later via re-airings, HBO Go, HBO Now, video on demand services, their DVRs, and so on. Perhaps they’ll find a way to stretch the show to the ten seasons HBO wants after all.
You’d think by the fifth season the amount of viewers, even if still strong, would have leveled out to a more consistent number range. But this is not the case. The monster grows.