Although there has been plenty of controversy over the way certain character plots ended in Season Two, you can’t argue the fact that Game of Thrones is having an enormous impact on the television world. Looking at the numbers from its sophomore season, it’s evident that the idea of a long-term series is highly probable. ”Valar Morghulis” put an exclamation point on the show’s growing popularity when the finale recorded a series high 4.2 million viewers in its initial airing. These numbers were a solid 38% above last year and an additional 910,000 tuned in to watch the replay; creating a total audience of 5.1 million. ‘Thrones impressive ratings shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though, the appeal of the show has steadily increased since the pilot episode. In fact, 74% more people watched the Season Two premiere than the series’ opener last year.
As the graph shows, the ratings have continued to be incredibly stable throughout both seasons, proving that viewers are staying loyal to the show and not dropping off after a few episodes. The only noticeable dip occured during the “Blackwater” episode; however, Memorial Day weekend was the cause for the weaker numbers. What’s most impressive is that Season Two averaged a massive 10.4 million viewers per episode across all repeats and viewing platforms (HBOGo, DVR, and HBO OnDemand). This number tops last year’s 9.3 million average by 1.1 million viewers; making it the 3rd most watched show in HBO history.
Keep in mind that these statistics don’t take into consideration all of the viewers who watched the show illegally. Midway through the second season’s run, speculation started to circulate around various websites that Game of Thrones was on pace to become this year’s “most pirated show”. Well, the numbers are in and according to TorrentFreak.com, ‘Thrones has indeed topped the list with an average of four million downloads per episode. While the black-market popularity continues to be strong, it remains to be seen if this will actually impact the show at all. HBO strongly stands behind their decision not to offer stand-alone HBOGo service to the masses; even though protest groups like Take My Money HBO have rallied against it. It’s not that HBO “doesn’t want your money”, the simple fact is that their business model doesn’t allow it. However, that issue is a completely different article entirely, but the point i’m tyring to make is that the mass appeal of Game of Thrones goes well beyond the numbers that are given in this post.
While it’s obvious that Game of Thrones has been extremely successful, it’s important to note that it’s massive following has also led to a ratings increase for HBO’s two new comedies, Veep and Girls. After the premiere of “Valar Morghulis”, Veep had the second most watched episode in its inaugural season with 1.2 million viewers and a 4.2 million gross audience; while Girls hit a new series high with 1.1 million and a 3.8 million gross viewing audience. It’s nice to see big brother helping out his little sisters!
With the announcement of Season Three coming just two weeks after the second season premiere, and showrunners Dan Benioff and D.B. Weiss both signing on for two more, it’s clear that HBO has big plans for this show. While the first season successfully tested the waters and showed that the series was marketable, Season Two has proven to be the breakthrough that was truly needed. HBO’s loyalty and support of D & D’s vision has paid off considerably in the form of Emmy wins, countless critical acclaims, and of course, record ratings. Even though this is fantastic news for fans, it can certainly get better. There’s no reason to believe that Season Three won’t be bigger and even more badass than the first two. If that is indeed the case, then we should see an even more impressive ratings jump next year.
The writers have said numerous times during interviews that they are developing the story for a long-term series. Considering Game of Thrones has been a magnet for adding new HBO subscribers, it’s quite possible that this will become a reality. After all, subscriptions are what keep the network going, and as we reported back in March, HBO added 190,000 new subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2011. Given the cult-like following, it’s plausible that these subs were largely due to the mystique that has surrounded ‘Thrones. Along with subscriptions, another factor that will prove imperative in the long term viability of the series is DVD sales. The good news is that Season One sold over 350,000 copies in its first week, and with all likelihood, Season Two will trounce those numbers. Given all the accomplishments that this show has earned over the past two years, I expect HBO to start funneling more resources into Game of Thrones’ production. Hopefully, this isn’t just wishful thinking and the writers are rewarded with extra time and a bigger budget to develop this amazing story properly. Whatever happens though, I can say with 100% certainty that Game of Thrones is here to stay.
Note: I’ve read alot of complaints on this site and others about waiting a whole year for Season Three. Believe me, I hate waiting just as much as the next person, but production on a show of this scale is literally a year-long process. First, take into consideration the several months that it takes to film a season of ‘Thrones; then add time for script writing, casting, editing, and promotion, and that pretty much takes up a whole years worth of time. Believe it or not, HBO is actually turning out seasons as fast as they can. Personally, I think we should feel lucky that it’s only a year.