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Westworld is bigger than The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones in its first season

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Think HBO might have a hit on its hands

Ed Harris as the Man in Black in Westworld. John P. Johnson/HBO

HBO announced yesterday that it was renewing Westworld for a second season based on how much attention the show had received from critics and fans, as well as its incredible ratings performance.

According to a press release from the network, Westworld has averaged 11.7 million viewers season-to-date (meaning over the course of the last seven weeks), putting it ahead of Game of Thrones and True Detective during similar times while they were in their first seasons.

That’s an impressive feat, considering that both Game of Thrones and True Detective garnered similar levels of press coverage and developed fan communities pretty quickly. There’s no question that HBO is looking to Westworld to be its next big series following Game of Thrones, which is set to end after the next two seasons, and the early ratings point to a show that could fill that hole.

Perhaps more impressively, Westworld's debut season is pulling in more than twice as many viewers as the first season of The Walking Dead, which has been the most watched show on cable television for years. The Walking Dead burst onto the scene in 2010 with 5.3 million viewers for its pilot, then averaged 5.24 million viewers over the course of its six-episode debut season. Both of these shows are adapted from existing source material, although Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comics has a much bigger fan base than Michael Crichton's 1973 Westworld film.

Everything points to Westworld taking the top spot as HBO’s most popular show once Game of Thrones goes off the air. In its most recent season, Game of Thrones averaged 23 million viewers a week, according to the network. Unfortunately, it’ll be some time before fans get to sink their teeth into more mysteries and riddles to solve once the first season ends. HBO executives said this week that Westworld isn’t likely to return until 2018, the same year that Game of Thrones will probably air its last season.

Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.