The season eight premiere of “Game of Thrones” brought in a series record 17.4 million viewers on Sunday night, according to HBO.
That includes 11.8 million television viewers who watched the popular fantasy drama on HBO at 9 p.m. Sunday night. The rest were viewers who watched two encore presentations, combined with those who streamed the show with the HBO Go or HBO Now apps. It had the “largest night of streaming activity ever for HBO,” according to the network.
The previous record for the show was the season seven finale, which nabbed 16.9 million viewers in August 2017. Viewership for Sunday’s premiere was up more than a million viewers from the season seven premiere in 2017.
“Thrones” has become a TV blockbuster at a time when there’s immense competition from streaming services and social media. The show gets a boost from delayed viewing, but its multiple storylines and spoilers make it ideal for appointment viewing, one of the few things left besides sports that is.
The premiere episode, entitled “Winterfell,” also got mostly positive reviews.
Lucy Mangan, a TV critic for The Guardian, wrote that the episode was “pleasing to those of us who found that the sprawl of later series was dissipating our ability to care about the characters and rendering the (many) deaths, twists, unions and partings increasingly insignificant.”
“The premiere pulled everyone and everything together,” she wrote. “It was, for the most part, an almost nostalgic hour.”
Daniel Fienberg, a TV critic for The Hollywood Reporter, said he was “reasonably satisfied” with the episode taking its time to set up the final season.
“Perhaps we don’t have time for this,” Fienberg wrote. “Still, ‘Game of Thrones’ may be the biggest show on TV, but for 55 minutes, what I relished was how small it could be.”