If you thought that HBO couldn't possibly deliver another series worthy of earning the audience attention that Game of Thrones has been getting for years, know that there is a new contender being groomed, and its name is Westworld. The heady and mystery-filled sci-fi drama came to a shocking close last night, and not only were its linear TV ratings the best of the season, but after all viewing platforms and delayed viewing windows were tabulated, Westworld became the most-watched debut season of any HBO original series that has ever existed. Even the Man in Black would approve..
"Bicameral Minds" was watched by a total of 3.6 million on Sunday night, as revealed by the Live+Same Day results. That's not an extremely high number, of course, but HBO is accounting for the seven-day numbers when putting those numeric comparisons together. And according to Deadline, Westworld is averaging right around 12 million viewers an episode when TV viewers are combined with those watching on DVR, as well as on HBO Go and HBO Now. (The finale's final numbers will come in next week.) No other show for the channel has had that kind of success, and the star-studded critical darling definitely deserves all the eyes it gets.
HBO has long been known for producing series of excellent quality and pop culture importance, but its premium cable nature doesn't always guarantee big audiences. Wisely, the network was a forerunner in getting its programming online for subscribers to imbibe on if they're unable to devote Sunday evenings to TV viewing. People couldn't do that when The Sopranos was airing, and even Tivo was in its early days then. So Westworld does have certain advantages in that respect, but then far fewer people are watching live TV these days compared to 15-20 years ago, so those delayed viewing numbers are as helpful as they are amazing. Apparently the viewership on HBO's digital outlets has doubled since the show made its debut in October.
It will obviously take some more time for Westworld to catch up with the ratings its network neighbor in Westeros gets on a weekly basis, but the attention given to Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's drama could easily lead to an unpredictably massive audience showing up for Season 2. So many people were trying to figure out what the myriad clues and surprises were, but there are millions upon millions of others who have yet to join the narrative. If the word of mouth keeps going as strong as it has been - and Westworld's WGA Awards nominations this morning are a good sign - then Season 2 could become the most-watched sophomore season for the network, if not more.