There's very little doubt that Game of Thrones is a global phenomenae. Since the launch of the TV show in April 2011, the programme has seen record viewing numbers for HBO, spawned video games, a whole fan culture, won countless awards (including four consecutive Emmy awards for Outstanding Drama Series) and even managed to build upon the popularity of the books. Such is the excitement around the show, since its launch, it's been the most pirated TV programme of the year in each year of availability. In the UK, the programme has aired on Sky Atlantic, and has been the only place to see it legally outside of DVD and Blu-Ray sales.
After the dramatic events of the fourth season of Game of Thrones, great anticipation was in place for the fifth season, which would officially be overtaking the books and begin to utilise its own, separate storylines. This meant new, totally unpredictable stories and no existing literature to draw on. Needless to say, that lead to a certain amount of nervousness amongst long time fans, but also a great deal of anticipation. All eyes were on Sky Atlantic yesterday then, as they broadcast the first episode of season five of the hit TV programme.
Privately, Sky had believed that the premiere of the new season would be a big event for them, but they had hardly believed that it would shatter their record viewing figures and even beat out some of the UK's biggest channels in the ratings. The premiere received 1.57 million viewers, which equates to a 6.7% share of the audience, which beat out both BBC Two and Channel Five in the same timeslots. That's a massive achievement for Sky Atlantic, especially when you consider that the channel is only available to those who subscribe to Sky.
It's even more impressive given the shock leaking of the first five episodes of the new series just a few days earlier, which sent the Internet into a fit of excitement and saw countless spoilers posted. It had been expected that many viewers would avoid the live broadcasts in favour of watching the illegal copies instead, but evidently enough avoided them to give Sky Atlantic a real overnight boost.
Maintaining viewing figures might prove slightly more difficult however, with each week offering a tantalising new cliffhanger, viewers might well feel compelled to turn to those leaked episodes to get their fix before the seven day waiting period has expired. Nevertheless, the programme gains in popularity all the time, so we might expect viewing figures to hold. Sky also came under fire on their Sky customer service number UK free number for not opting for the same simultaneous broadcast as many other networks, opting to show it the next day instead. They will also be disappointed that they lost 1.2 million viewers for their follow up programme 'Thronecast'.
Nevertheless, it's a great boost for Sky and it proves that their model of buying in top TV programmes for their exclusive channel is paying dividends for the company. Also premiering soon is the final series of Mad Men, which will see the end of one of the greatest TV programmes of all time and wave goodbye to one of the most richly dramatic and textured television efforts we may ever see.
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