“Game of Thrones” has become a ratings Juggernaut since its premiere in 2011.
The penultimate, seventh season premiere of “Game of Thrones” broke the record for the most watched HBO season premiere of all time when it reached 26 million views across platforms and in delayed viewing, according to Variety.
Curious to see how “Game of Thrones” ratings stack up against the season premieres of other popular HBO shows, Business Insider reached out to the audience measurement company Nielsen for answers.
It was impossible for Nielsen to provide the ratings information for every HBO season premiere, so instead a handful of some of the most critically acclaimed HBO shows were selected by Business Insider compare: “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “True Blood,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Wire,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Leftovers,” and “Girls.”
The way TV is viewed has changed significantly since the introduction of DVR and streaming sites, and views from outside of linear TV have only just begun to be taken into account when calculating ratings. The data in our roundup only accounts for live views, as well as some time shifted (DVR) viewing within the same day. Data for season premieres aired prior to 2006 only factor in live views.
The results? When it comes to live television views for HBO season premieres, “Game of Thrones” doesn’t come in first place, in fact it doesn’t even come in second, or third — it comes in fifth place, at least when only looking at live views. Even though it’s been 16 years since it aired, “The Sopranos” season three premiere raked in the most live views of any HBO season premiere. “The Sopranos” fourth season premiere follows in second place, and “Sex and the City”‘s fourth season premiere comes in third place.
It should be noted that “The Sopranos’ ” season three premiere, and “Sex and the City’s” season four and season one premieres were aired as two separate programs, but for the sake of brevity we combined the numbers.
The season premiere ratings for “The Wire,” “The Leftovers,” and “Girls” didn’t make it onto the top 20 highest ranking HBO premiere list. The highest live views “Girls” received was for its third season premiere at 1.1 million, “The Leftovers”‘s highest rated season premiere was its first with 1.7 million views, and “The Wire” had the most views for its second season premiere with 4.4 million views.
The season premiere that had the lowest season premiere, out of the shows selected was “Girls” — its fifth season pulled in a meager 489,000 views the night it aired.
Of course, there are a ton of series season premieres that were left out of this ranking, and streaming views from HBO Go and HBO Now are not accounted for — the inclusion of which would no doubt shake this chart up quite a bit. But based on the numbers, “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” commanded live audiences like no other.