By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James
Beset by controversy – including significant plot deviations and the disposal of seemingly indispensible characters (Jon Snow, anyone?) – Game of Thrones season five threw a multitude of ‘curveballs’ at viewers. But, what was the reaction? Are you besotted like never before, or has your obsession waned?
Let’s exploit the revelatory powers of Business Intelligence software and data visualization to find out!
Game of Thrones HBO viewership per episode, seasons 1 – 5
- The season five premiere of Game of Thrones beat all previous ‘opening night’ viewership records on HBO, with eight million fans tuning in
- The season five finale bettered the eight million viewership benchmark attained during the premiere, with a record 8.11 million people watching Jon Snow’s demise
- HBO viewership per episode was substantially lower for the bulk of season five compared to the first and last installments, with episodes two through to nine drawing an average audience of 6.59 million
- By comparison, the average viewership for season four of Games of Thrones was 6.85 million
Game of Thrones season 5: A tale of two bookends?
After steadily building its following throughout season one, two, three and four, the season five premiere of Game of Thrones outshone all previous ‘opening night’ viewership records on HBO, with eight million fans eager to reacquaint themselves with – or jump on – the GoT bandwagon. This record was broken again during the season five finale, with 8.11 million people squirming through Jon Snow’s (probable) demise.
However, despite generating record audience figures for the opening and closing episodes of season five, episodes two through to nine drew an average audience of 6.59 million – figures roughly on par, or slightly lower than, viewership figures for corresponding episodes of season four.
So did GoT season five actually pull in more viewers than season four?
Game of Thrones HBO viewership average per episode (seasons 1 – 5)
- HBO viewership grew markedly season-on-season during the first four seasons, climbing from an average viewership of 2.52 million per episode in season one (25 million total), to 3.8 in season two (38 million total), 4.97 in season three (49 million total), and 6.85 million per episode in season four (68 million total)
- Viewership growth has clearly stagnated, with the average audience size per episode just 30,000 greater in season five compared to season four
- Despite the obvious plateau in viewership growth from season four to season five, season five remains the most viewed, with an average audience of 6.88 million per episode, compared to 6.85 million per episode throughout season four
- Removing the highly rated premiere and finale episodes from season five, the average viewership per episode – from episodes two to nine – was 6.59 million
- By comparison, the average viewership per episode for season four of GoT was 6.85 million (total) and 6.84 million for episodes two to nine
Game of Thrones season five the most viewed season ever, but…
Ok. It’s official. Season five was the most watched season of GoT to date, according to official HBO viewership figures, with over 68 million total viewers – an average of 6.88 million per episode. However, it’s also clear that the popularity of HBO’s GoT – an adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels – is plateauing. Season four also pulled in around 68 million viewers, averaging 6.85 million – just 30,000 fewer per episode compared to season five.
By contrast, viewership over the first four season climbed rapidly, from an average of 2.52 million per episode in season one (25 million total), to 3.8 in season two (38 million total), 4.97 in season three (49 million total), and 6.85 million per episode in season four (68 million total).
In fact, removing the highly rated premiere and finale episodes from season five, the average viewership per episode – from episodes two to nine – was only 6.59 million. Interestingly, average viewership per episode for season four of GoT was 6.85 million (total) and 6.84 million for episodes two to nine.
With the first and last episodes of season five arguably masking a slight slide in viewership, has audience satisfaction (ratings) actually taken a hit compared to season four?
Game of Thrones average rating per season according to IMDb
- GoT season five scored the highest average per episode rating on IMDb (8.78)
- Season four was narrowly beaten into second place – both in terms of viewership and viewer ratings, with an average per episode IMDb rating of 8.76
- Unlike viewership, the average per episode rating has not increased each season – season one had a higher average per episode IMDb rating (8.45) than seasons two (8.25) and three (8.33)
GoT season five: Most viewed and most popular
Despite the stagnation in terms of HBO audience figures, the latest GoT season was also rated the best by viewers on IMDb, scoring an average episode rating of 8.78.
While IMDb ratings for season four (average rating of 8.76) and five are reflective of viewership figures – with season five narrowly beating season four as the most highly watched and rated GoT season to date, this correlation was not reflected for seasons one, two and three. Unlike viewership, the average rating per episode has not increased each season. Season one had a higher average IMDb rating (8.45) than seasons two (8.25) and three (8.33).
Where to next?
Despite its overall popularity in terms of viewership and audience ratings, stay tuned for the next installment in our GoT season five data blog series, as we outline why it’s also the most divisive season to date.