Solid ratings and a season two renewal for HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones.
Earlier this morning, HBO released ratings numbers for the premiere of their new epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Though the ratings were solid – if decidedly unspectacular – HBO also announced the show’s renewal for a second season. Great news for fans new and old.
Here’s James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly with a succinct summary of Sunday’s ratings: “The first episode delivered a decent 2.2 million viewers for its premiere airing… then a rather strong 1.2 million for its first encore, and another 800,000 for the third telecast for an overall healthy total of 4.2 million.”
Those numbers are well behind the 5 million viewers who tuned in for the Boardwalk Empire premiere – but who are we kidding – no one seriously expected Game of Thrones to best the prohibition drama. Boardwalk Empire had several advantages over Game of Thrones: firstly, Boardwalk, as an organized crime drama, is a comparatively easy sell for HBO. Boardwalk also benefited from being advertised extensively during True Blood (another huge hit for the cable network) and also had a huge name – in Martin Scorsese – attached to the pilot as the director. In our humble opinion, Tim Van Patten is a stone-cold visual narrative bad-ass, but he doesn’t exactly generate the same pomp and circumstance as a legend like Scorsese.
As was smartly pointed out by Warming Glow – Game of Thrones may have failed to best Boardwalk Empire, but it did handily beat-out the Treme premiere’s ratings, and Treme was also renewed by HBO right off the bat.
The fact that Game of Thrones set a ratings record for its British network Sky Atlantic is a very positive sign for HBO. Serialized cable television series generate a good proportion of their revenue off the sale of DVD/Blu-Ray box-sets, and with a strong international audience – Game of Thrones could be a huge success in that format.
On some level, HBO is likely disappointed that Game of Thrones failed to crack the 3 million viewers mark for the premiere – however, the underlying ratings numbers still look promising, and there is significant room for growth. Positive reviews, word of mouth and a hearty serving of smut and blood helped True Blood woo mainstream viewers – and the challenge for Game of Thrones, now, is to do the same.
Can the show have appeal beyond fans of the books, fans of fantasy and women who like men with swords? We still can’t answer that question, and time will tell, but we certainly hope so. In the meantime, we’re just looking forward to at least 19 more episodes of Emilia Clarke nude, Sean Bean’s classic “gravely agonizing over matters of honour” face and more sloppy sound-effects to accompany various types of dismemberment!
Game of Thrones continues Sunday nights at 9 PM on HBO and HBO Canada.