HBO’s “Game of Thrones” continues to grow in popularity, with Sunday’s fifth-season finale drawing the show’s largest audience ever — despite going up against the NBA Finals in most of the country.
According to Nielsen “live plus same-day” estimates, “Thrones” averaged 8.11 million viewers, up 14% from both the previous week (7.14 million) and last year’s finale (7.09 million). The previous series high for the show came with its fifth-season premiere in April, which drew about 8 million.
Sunday’s ratings growth is a continuation of a trend that has seen a show once considered “niche” become cable’s second most popular program, behind only AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
After bowing in 2011 with 2.2 million viewers, “Game of Thrones” first drew 3 million viewers for an episode with its season 1 finale, and then hit the 4-million mark with its season 2 finale. Midway through its third season, it surpassed 5 million viewers for the first time, and then it moved above 6 million for the first time with its season 4 premiere last year. It hit 7 million midway through last season, and then kicked off its fifth season with a best-yet 7.997 million.
In adults 18-49, primetime’s most important demo but one that has little effect on a premium service like HBO, Sunday’s finale of “Game of Thrones” averaged a 4.1 rating (or about 5.2 million of its 8.1 million viewers). This is up 8% from last year’s finale score (3.81) and is the show’s second highest-rated ever, behind only its most recent season opener (4.19).
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