Game of Thrones did it again, one last time, for its penultimate season: Sunday’s super-sized finale broke HBO’s ratings records and stands as the show’s most-watched episode ever in the overnight Nielsens.
A total of 12.1 million viewers tuned in for the 9 p.m. ET airing — up 13 percent from the previous record high two weeks earlier and 36 percent higher than the season 6 finale. If you add HBO’s replays and streaming, that number climbs to 16.5 million.
The super-sized 80-minute episode, titled “The Dragon and the Wolf,” caps a season that shattered HBO’s viewership records across the board, plus broke records on other networks internationally. When all forms of catch-up viewing are counted, the penultimate season’s episodes are averaging just under 31 million viewers — up nearly 8 million from the same point in time last season.
The finale, by the way, also did not leak — which felt like an accomplishment after a season where HBO’s computer system was compromised by a hacker and, separately, two GoT episodes leaked online in advance from HBO’s partners. The much-publicized hacker leaked episodes of other upcoming HBO shows — from the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm to new drama The Deuce — but not any GoTvideo (HBO removed Thrones from its internal screening system last year as a precaution against something like this happening). Either way, one of HBO’s record breakers this season was an episode that leaked, “The Spoils of War,” suggesting it didn’t have a meaningful impact on ratings.
With season 7 now complete, GoT producers plan to commence production on an eighth and final season in October. The season is expected to consist of six episodes and will debut either in the latter half of 2018 or, some say more likely, early 2019.
In the wake of GoT, HBO comedies Ballers (2.9 million viewers) and Insecure (1.3 million viewers) also hit series highs.
Read our “The Dragon and the Wolf” coverage:
— Game of Thrones stars react to that huge Jon Snow reveal
— Game of Thrones actor on his shocking season 7 finale death
— Game of Thrones showrunners on the loss of Littlefinger
— Your 10 biggest finale questions answered
— Deep-dive recap
— Game of Thrones podcast (finale episode coming Monday)