Medieval fantasy saga attracts 743,000 in U.K.

LONDON — The first episode of HBO’s big budget medieval fantasy saga, “Game of Thrones,” described by one British critic as “An X-rated ‘Merlin,'” gave Sky Atlantic its highest audience since the channel bowed in February.

The show won an average audience of 743,000 for the new web, out-performing the opening episode of “Boardwalk Empire,” watched by 438,000.

A BSkyB spokesman said that 30% of all those who saw “Game of Thrones” were new to the channel.

The show maintained its audience throughout the telecast, peaking with 823,000 viewers between 9.15-9.20 p.m.

Overall in U.K. pay TV homes “Game of Thrones,” which is shaping up to be HBO’s biggest ever seller in international markets, came fifth behind the four main terrestrial webs, BBC 1 and 2, ITV1 and Channel 4, and “Glee” on E4.

The show’s audience was primarily upscale, male and over-45, according to BARB/TNS Overnights.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more