(Source: www.forbes.com)

'Game of Thrones' digital content engagement, which is always high, focused on Arya Stark during the premiere.

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Game of Thrones returned last night for its seventh season with “Dragonstone”, and 16.1 million people watched as Daenerys arrived in Westeros and Arya Stark announced to none other than Ed Sheeran her plans to murder Cersei Lannister.

Approximately 10.1 viewers watched on linear television, while the rest watched via DVR and through streaming platforms, including HBO Go and HBO Now. That’s a 50% from the 10.7 million viewers across all platforms who tuned into last season’s April 2016 premiere, despite the fact that viewership is often higher in the spring than in the summer. The linear numbers also top the season 6 finale’s 8.9 million viewers, which was, at the time, the show’s most-watched episode. The episode was also the most tweeted-about in the show’s history, garnering over 2.4 million tweets between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. EDT, according to Twitter.

“While many have predicted that video on demand would kill the shared experience of everyone watching and discussing a TV show at the same time, the huge real-time impact of Game of Thrones indicates that when there’s enough anticipation around a TV program, there will still be millions of viewers who want to see a new episode the second it becomes available,”  says Jonathan Cohen the Principal Brand Analyst at marketing technology company Amobee.

Though HBO’s ratings don’t translate to advertiser dollars as they would on a traditional TV network, they do mean a whole lot of HBO subscribers watch the show. These subscribers are the network’s bread and butter, and are behind its $1.6 billion in revenue and $583 million in operating income during the first quarter of 2017.

Why The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Audience Keeps Getting Bigger

That revenue includes money from HBO Now–HBO’s digital-only service that has over 2 million subscribers. Twenty-three percent of all digital engagement around the HBO Now platform has been Game of Thrones related, according to Amobee. That means that one in every four HBO Now subscribers could be a Game of Thrones viewer.

“We don’t sell advertising, so as long as we are doing a show that people feel strongly about, the show is working,” Casey Bloys, HBO’s programming chief, previously told Forbes.

People do feel strongly about the show. Between the social buzz and the awards chatter (Game of Thrones won more Emmys than any other show last year), there is plenty of noise around the series. When that noise is generally positive as it is for Game of Thrones, it translates to brand value for HBO.

If the first episode’s ratings are any sign of the high viewership to come, HBO has two more seasons to milk Game of Thrones for its positive influence on the brand and its revenue figures, and then all it can do is hope another series—a spinoff, perhaps—can cast the same spell.

For the latest on the entertainment industry, follow me on Twitter @MadelinePBerg.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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