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).
The “Game of Thrones” finale also set Twitter ablaze on Sunday, landing atop the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings weekly top 10 series list with 436,000 event-related Tweets that were seen by a unique audience of 5.1 million people. That was more than twice as many as the next closest series on the list, ABC’s “The Bachelorette” (2.09 million) and ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” (1.92 million).