How 'Game of Thrones' viewership compares with TV's other most-watched shows

HBO‘Game of Thrones.’
  • The season-eight premiere of “Game of Thrones” was the show’s most-watched episode across all of HBO’s platforms.
  • We looked at how HBO’s “Game of Thrones” numbers compare with Nielsen ratings for 2018’s biggest shows, including “Roseanne” and “This Is Us.”
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

The premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones” was watched by 17.4 million viewers across all of HBO’s platforms on Sunday, a series best. But how does that stack up with other popular TV shows?

It’s difficult to compare “Game of Thrones” viewership directly with shows on broadcast and cable networks. The HBO fantasy series is a mega-hit whose viewership includes a lot of HBO Go and HBO Now streaming viewers, as well as people who pirate the show, which would not be captured by traditional Nielsen ratings.

Sunday’s episode, “Winterfell,” was pirated 54 million times in 24 hours, three times the size of HBO’s official viewership figure, according to the piracy-analytics company Muso. The top three countries where the show was pirated were India, China, and the US. Chinese censors cut six minutes of the premiere, which could have prompted fans to seek alternatives.

And HBO said on Monday that viewership on its standalone streaming platform, HBO Now, grew by 50% from the season-seven finale and by 97% from the season-seven premiere.


Read more:
The ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 premiere was pirated 54 million times in 24 hours, vastly outstripping its legal audience

In the US, Dish hasn’t picked up HBO amid a dispute over a carrying deal, so Dish customers could have sought other means of watching the show. HBO said that could have also affected the 9 p.m. airing of the episode, which was watched by 11.8 million viewers, fewer than the 12.1 million for the season-seven finale.

But those factors aside, we can compare the top-rated shows from 2018, based on Nielsen ratings, with what we know about the “Game of Thrones” premiere to get a rough idea of how it stacks up.

“Roseanne” held tight the entire year as the biggest show of 2018. The revival was quickly canceled after one season after the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, tweeted a racist remark at Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. It was replaced with a spin-off named “The Conners,” which premiered in October to lower, but not bad, ratings.

Meanwhile, “The Big Bang Theory” entered its 12th and final season last year with its usual strong numbers, and its prequel, “Young Sheldon,” continued to be a hit for CBS as well.

Here are the nine biggest shows of 2018, according to Nielsen ratings, and where “Game of Thrones” would fit in, based on HBO’s official numbers:


9. “Bull” — CBS

CBS

Average viewers: 13.5 million

Summary:“Stars Michael Weatherly as Dr. Jason Bull in a drama inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, the founder of one of the most prolific trial-consulting firms of all time.”


8. “America’s Got Talent” (Tuesdays) — NBC

NBC

Average viewers: 14.3 million

Summary: “The all-new winter edition of TV’s No. 1 alternative series, ‘America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ … will feature the star-studded judges panel from ‘America’s Got Talent’ – Executive Producer Simon Cowell, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel – as well as Host Terry Crews, co-star of NBC’s ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.'”


7. “The Good Doctor” — ABC

ABC

Average viewers: 14.5 million

Summary:“A young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, relocates from a quiet country life to join a prestigious hospital’s surgical unit.”


6. “Manifest” — NBC

NBC

Average viewers: 14.6 million

Summary: “When Montego Air Flight 828 landed safely after a turbulent but routine flight, the crew and passengers were relieved. Yet in the span of those few hours, the world had aged five years and their friends, families and colleagues, after mourning their loss, had given up hope and moved on. Now, faced with the impossible, they’re all given a second chance.”


5. “Young Sheldon” — CBS

Robert Voets/CBS

Average viewers: 15.7 million

Summary:“For 10-year-old Sheldon Cooper, it isn’t easy growing up in East Texas. Being a once-in-a-generation mind capable of advanced mathematics and science isn’t always helpful in a land where church and football are king. And while the vulnerable, gifted and somewhat naïve Sheldon deals with the world, his very normal family must find a way to deal with him.”


4. “This Is Us” — NBC

NBC

Average viewers: 16.6 million

Summary: “Everyone has a family. And every family has a story. ‘This Is Us’ chronicles the Pearson family across the decades.”


3. “NCIS” — CBS

CBS/Bill Inoshita

Average viewers: 16.7 million

Summary:“‘NCIS’ (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is more than just an action drama. With liberal doses of humour, it’s a show that focuses on the sometimes complex and always amusing dynamics of a team forced to work together in high-stress situations.”


“Game of Thrones” — HBO

HBO

Viewers across all HBO platforms: 17.4 million

Viewers during the 9 p.m. HBO airing: 11.8 million


2. “The Big Bang Theory” — CBS

CBS

Average viewers: 18.3 million

Summary:“Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists – geniuses in the laboratory but socially challenged everywhere else. Enter beautiful, street-smart neighbour Penny, who aims to teach them a thing or two about life.”


1. “Roseanne” — ABC

ABC

Average viewers: 20 million

Summary: “Explore life, death and everything in between through the relatable, hilarious and brutally honest lens of the Conner household.”

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