Here’s the good news for HBO: The premium cable network broke an overall audience record with 10.7 million people tuning into Game of Thrones‘ season six premiere by watching live or on streaming services over the weekend.
The bad news: The number of people watching the series live slipped for the first time in the show’s history.
Game of Thrones is still one of the most popular shows on TV and only getting more popular. The premiere of this season beat Game of Thrones’ previous record of 10.3 million viewers from the season five finale last year. And overall viewership went up nine percent from the season five premiere.
Indeed, the Nielsen numbers for the “Red Woman” episode are probably low, since they did not count those who tuned in as part of HBO’s promotional free weekend, which allowed non-subscribers to test out its streaming service.
But this was the first season premiere for which on-air viewing dropped from the year before. That audience fell about four percent from last year, according to calculations by Entertainment Weekly.
The numbers only emphasize the importance of HBO’s streaming services, HBOGo and HBONow, the latter of which can be purchased without a cable subscription. As more people unplug, more networks are offering independent streaming services.