How Many Will Watch ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale?

As you may have heard, it is the series finale of Game of Thrones on HBO May 19. The show will set a new viewership record for HBO, something it’s been doing for some time.

The April 28 episode, “The Long Night,” drew 17.8 million viewers, which the network said was, for the moment, a series high in gross audience. That one had the battle between the Army of the Dead and the combined army of the living. The 17.8 million included two linear airings Sunday and streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go.

The show set another record May 12, the penultimate episode called “The Bells,” with 18.4 million viewers.

The finale will top that.

It’s notable that the May 12 number beat what the series finale of The Big Bang Theory did on CBS May 16. The Chuck Lorre comedy drew just shy of 18 million total viewers. It lasted for 12 seasons.

There are six episodes in the final season of Game of Thrones, its eighth season.

The show came up a few times during Upfront Week. At the NBCUniversal upfront May 13, late-night host Seth Meyers noted how Brooklyn Nine-Nine worked well for NBC after its run on Fox, and said Game of Thrones would do the same. “We should pick that up! I can’t believe they canceled it,” he said. “I think that show is very popular. I haven’t seen last night’s episode, but I think you can get a few more seasons out of the Cersei and Jamie relationship.”

Over at Univision, there’s an upcoming series called El Dragon. Steve Mandala, president of ad sales and marketing, mentioned that other dragon show on HBO. “Ours is going to kick some serious butt this year,” he said.

We’re curious how the Game of Thrones finale will compare to previous high-profile HBO series. This much we know--Game will obliterate finale ratings for its predecessors on the network.

The Sopranos finale in 2007 drew 11.9 million viewers.

The Six Feet Under closer in 2005 tallied 3.9 million, according to the Chicago Tribune (HBO did not share finale ratings for past shows.)

Sex and the City, meanwhile, wrapped in 2004. That finale got 10.6 million viewers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Those shows aired before Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, when viewers’ options were far more limited.

More recently, HBO series finales posted more modest numbers. The Leftovers in 2017 got just north of a million, said TV by the Numbers, while Veep last Sunday got 1.1 million, and 1.6 million when a replay and streaming was added. Those two series were adored by critics, and many fans, but are not quite the cultural touchstones that Game of Thrones and The Sopranos are.

So it’s Game on for the beloved dragon drama. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.