I have a confession to make. I haven’t watched the new episode of Game of Thrones yet. While I am a fan of the show, I’m still a season behind (which made researching the show without reading any spoilers particularly treacherous). It’s hard to say exactly what makes the show so successful, despite how shockingly disturbing it is on a regular basis, but few would argue it’s not one of the most popular series to date. But it begs the question: in a world of streaming services and illegal downloads, how do we measure the success of a “television” show?

Before the days of Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and Crave, it was much easier to judge how successful a show was. A show aired, viewers watched, and ratings came back to the network. Now, it’s much harder to tell who’s watching due to all the different ways consumers view content. And how shows turn a profit has obviously also changed. So, how do you evaluate the success of a show without traditional viewership data to compare? The season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones attracted 17.4 million viewers through HBO’s various platforms, the highest numbers the series has ever seen, and a record for the network. But those numbers are nothing compared records set by popular TV shows broadcast before the early 2000s. The record for the most watched episode of a series is still held by the finale of M*A*S*H in 1983 at a staggering 105 million viewers in the US. But is it really fair to compare a modern broadcast now that the viewing habits of consumers have shifted? Now that everything is on demand and you don’t even have to remember the set your VHS (okay, or DVR) to record, there’s no risk of missing the premier, so there’s far less incentive to stop what you’re doing and tune in.

It is odd to think that even though media has become unimaginably easy to consume in comparison to the time of M*A*S*H and other classic TV shows, it’s highly unlikely any new episode will ever see the same level of viewership at any one time again. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how many of us tune in for the series finale.

Where do you think GOT stacks up compared to its traditional television predecessors?


Perri Read, Junior Consultant