If you’ve spent any time at all on the internet in the past 48 hours, then you’re probably aware that the series finale of Game of Thrones drew a decidedly … mixed reaction from viewers.
But while many fans may not have been enthralled by the beloved series’ final installment — or its final season, for that matter — they tuned in from all corners of the world in record numbers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, an astonishing 13.6 million viewers watched the debut airing of the Thrones finale.
Replays and early streaming bring that number to 19.4 million (and growing).
Both numbers are records not only for GoT, but for HBO and premium cable in general.
And it should come as no surprise that the record broken on Sunday night also belonged to Game of Thrones.
The show’s penultimate episode also posted jaw-dropping numbers, drawing 12.5 million catching the first-run, and a total of 18.4 million tuning in over the course of the first night.
Of course, for those involved in Thrones‘ final season — from showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff all the way down to the lowliest charred peasant in King’s Landing — joy over this unprecedented ratings triumph is likely tempered by the negative response to the show’s conclusion.
Here’s a number that HBO top brass probably won’t be shouting from the rooftops anytime soon: 48 percent.
That’s the score for the GoT finale on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Execs at the major networks wouldn’t lose much sleep over a show that drew in a record audience but received negative reviews from most critics.
However, HBO is not CBS.
The network’s bottom line is mostly reliant on subscriptions, which means its reputation is almost as important as the number of people tuning in for its original programming.
Viewers shell out for HBO’s substantial monthly fee (It’s costlier than Netflix or Hulu in most markets.) because they feel the network offers quality programming they can’t get anywhere else
There was always a fear among execs that the end of the war in Westeros would mean a substantial drop in subscriptions.
The fact that so many viewers are feeling burned (pun fully intended) by the final season of HBO’s flagship show does not bode well for the network’s future, particularly as it gears up for competition from the highly-anticipated Disney Plus.
In all likelihood, HBO will always be around in some form or another — but then again, they said that about the Iron Throne, too.