We finally know the true winner of Game of Thrones, and it’s HBO. The last-ever episode of the hit fantasy series drew a record number of viewers for the premium cable network, with millions tuning in to find out what would happen after Daenerys Targaryen torched King’s Landing — and who would ultimately end up as the ruler of Westeros.
19.3 million people watched “The Iron Throne”
The last season of Game of Thrones had provoked a strong reaction from fans — much of it negative. But concerns about odd pacing, cheesy moments, and Daenerys’s sharp turn into “Mad Queen” territory didn’t stop people from tuning to see how the showrunners wrapped everything up.
On Sunday night, 13.6 million people watched the Season 8 finale, “The Iron Throne,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. Once you add in streaming and replays, the total number of viewers climbs to 19.3 million. Those numbers are both a series-high for Game of Thrones and for HBO. Before this season of Game of Thrones, HBO’s most-watched episode was the Season 4 premiere of The Sopranos, which aired in 2002 and drew 13.43 million viewers.
Once additional streaming, on-demand, and DVR viewings are factored in, HBO predicts a total of 44.2 million viewers for the Game of Thrones series finale.
This season has been setting records
The record-breaking ratings for the last episode of Game of Thrones are in line with the show’s Season 8 trajectory. More than 17 million people watched the April 14 season premiere, “Winterfell.” The show’s penultimate episode, “The Bells,” drew 18.4 million viewers.
The ratings for Game of Thrones are all the more impressive once you consider that HBO is a premium cable service that isn’t available in all homes. The show’s has seen a huge increase in popularity since it debuted in 2011. The series premiere had just 2.2 million viewers in its initial broadcast. Season 7 averaged 10.3 million viewers per episode.
Game of Thrones beats The Big Bang Theory
Game of Thrones wasn’t the only popular show to wrap up in the past week. On May 16, the series finale of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory aired. That episode drew 18 million people in its live broadcast, and 23.44 million after three days of delayed viewing were factored in.
While those numbers are impressive, especially in an era of fragmented TV viewing, neither show is close to being the most-watched series finale of all time. More than 76 million people watched the last episode of Seinfeld in 1998, according to a roundup from Business Insider, making it the third-most-watched finale ever. Cheers drew 84.4 million viewers for its last call in 1993.
But it will be hard for any show to top M.A.S.H. A jaw-dropping 106 million people watched that show’s finale when it aired in 1983.
Read more: ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale: Jon Snow Actor Says Fans Are ‘In Denial’ About Who Daenerys Really Was
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