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Game of Thrones has finally returned to the airwaves with a new season, and the Season 7 premiere was a huge episode that set the stage for an thrilling batch of episodes. Due to the extended hiatus, the premiere was the first episode in more than a year, and it turns out that a ton of people tuned in to watch it. HBO reports that Game of Thrones broke two of its own records with the number of viewers who have watched the premiere so far.
10.1 million people tuned in to watch the Season 7 premiere live when it aired on July 16, according to HBO (via TV By The Numbers), making it the most-watched on-air episode in the history of the series. The 10.1 millions marks an increase of nearly 14% over the previous record, which was 8.89 million viewers for last year's Season 6 finale. The long hiatus clearly didn't drive any viewers away.
The on-air viewership record isn't the only one broken by the Season 7 finale. Early returns from streaming viewership and premiere replays give a big bump to the overall number. Taking the live viewers into account on top of streaming viewers and replays, and we have a grand total of 16.1 million people who watched the premiere, which marks a single-day record for Game of Thrones. Not too shabby for a show in its seventh season!
Game of Thrones is actually quite remarkable for how it has continued to increase in viewership over the years. Almost all series tend to lose viewers as they age, and even AMC's The Walking Dead has been slipping in the last couple of years despite increases in buzz and publicity with major deaths and new villains. Game of Thrones has managed to increase its viewership every single season so far, and it's off to a good start to continue the trend in Season 7.
Given the astronomical ratings for the premiere, the rest of the six episodes of Season 7 only need to average approximately 7.3 million live viewers to beat the Season 6 average of 7.69 million viewers. It's obviously too soon to say that Game of Thrones will be able to retain enough of its premiere audience to continue its streak, but I'm optimistic.
The events of the episode definitely gave viewers reason to tune in next week. Cersei has three of the Seven Kingdoms and is determined to hang onto them. Dany has three dragons, a fleet of ships, and a large army. Jon has... no interest whatsoever in the Iron Throne and is focused on the upcoming Great War. Arya has a list of names and no remorse. And we still don't know where Gendry is!
If you missed the Season 7 premiere, take a look at our breakdown of the biggest scenes of the episode. You can catch the rest of the season on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Check out our summer TV guide to see what you can watch on the other six nights of the week, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest in Game of Thrones news.