By Anthony Crupi
While the traditional TV deliveries were sufficient to set a new HBO record—the previous high-water mark was set on Sept. 15, 2002, when the Season 4 premiere of “The Sopranos” (“For All Debts Public and Private”) scared up 13.4 million viewers—the turnout likely won’t earn the finale a spot on the list of the 100 most-watched programs of 2019. (The cutoff for that annual roster of TV’s top telecasts is around 14 million linear viewers.)
In fact, when looking only at the linear TV audience, the “Thrones” swan song was out-rated by three episodes from CBS’s final season of “The Big Bang Theory,” including Thursday’s farewell hour. With an average draw of 18.5 million live-same-day viewers, the two-part “Big Bang” finale now stands as the year’s twentieth most-watched TV program.
One statistic we likely won’t be privy to is the number of consumers who canceled their HBO subscriptions after the final credits rolled last night. While HBO has a number of new series in the works, including Damon Lindelof’s “Watchmen” and the equally nerd-friendly adaptation of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, the network almost certainly will have to deal with subscriber churn in the near term. (While HBO parent company AT&T will disclose the network’s vital statistics during its July 24 second-quarter earnings call, the subscriber numbers are expected to be muddied by the addition of Cinemax’s head count.)
Hopefully the “Game of Thrones” fanatics who spent the better part of the last six weeks carping about how disappointed they were by the way the show’s producers decided to wrap up a sprawling saga about dragons and zombies and (presumably) goblins will be more forgiving when the prequel arrives. But if the social media conversation is any indication, many of the less-than-enchanted “Thrones’ enthusiasts won’t rest until HBO provides them with exactly the sort of show they so richly deserve.