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Westworld had the biggest first season in HBO history thanks to HBO Now

Beat out The Sopranos and Game of Thrones

Westworld episode 9 John P. Johnson/HBO

Westworld became one of HBO’s most talked about series in just a matter of weeks, and now according to new ratings, it’s the most successful first season of a show in the network’s history.

According to TV by the Numbers, Westworld’s finale brought in more than 2 million viewers, marking a season high for the series. According to HBO, looking at a combination of live viewers, reruns, DVR playbacks and streaming, Westworld has averaged 12 million viewers an episode for the entire season, making it the most watched in the network’s history.

In terms of first season finale ratings, Game of Thrones, HBO’s flagship series still dominated, bringing in more than 3 million live viewers, but overall averaged 9.2 million viewers. In fact, Westworld also beat Game of Thrones in its second season, which brought in an average of 11.2 million viewers. In comparison, other HBO shows that dominated both conversation and ratings at the time, like True Detective, brought in 11.9 million viewers on average.

The biggest difference between True Detective, Westworld and Game of Thrones is the launch date of HBO Now, the network’s stand-alone streaming service that doesn’t require a traditional premium cable subscription. HBO Now launched in 2015, four years after Game of Thrones premiered. According to the network, as of March 2016, the network’s stand-alone streaming app had more than 1 million subscribers and is growing exponentially. While Westworld was able to reap the benefits of HBO Now’s subscriber base, Game of Thrones could not.

Since the launch of HBO Now, Game of Thrones has seen an increase in ratings, averaging 23.3 million viewers in its sixth season — a 15 percent increase overall compared to the fifth season. HBO has also explicitly said that it’s because of streaming services like HBO Now that shows like Westworld are seeing an increase in viewership.

In 2015, a consumers report suggested that HBO Now would have the most impact on the network’s ratings because it would allow those without a traditional premium cable subscription package to subscribe to the network individually, much like other streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. As such, the important 18-34 year old demographic would be able to watch shows and boost the network’s overall ratings.

With Westworld set to return to HBO in 2018, it remains to be seen whether the show will attain the same level of success that Game of Thrones has had, but it’s definitely on track to becoming one of the network’s biggest series.

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