"Game of Thrones" Premiere Sets HBO Record; Nielsen Week In Review
This image released by HBO shows Emilia Clarke, left, and Kit Harington in a scene from “Game of Thrones,” premiering on Sunday, April 14. The first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones” is a record-breaker for the series and HBO. The pay channel said the 17.4 million viewers who watched Sunday’s episode either on TV or online represent a season-opening high for the fantasy saga. (HBO via AP)
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HBO’s “Game of Thrones” lived up to the hype. This past weekend’s season premiere stands as the most-watched one-day event in the history of the cable network that began in 1978.

The Nielsen company said 17.4 million people watched the Sunday opener to the show’s final season, either live on the network at 9 p.m., streamed, through HBO’s on-demand service or during two reruns that aired later that night. Nielsen can’t account for people who watched more than once.

HBO’s previous high-water mark was last season’s finale of “Game of Thrones,” making it likely that this new HBO record will be eclipsed when the series ends on May 19.

Nielsen said that 11.8 million people watched the season premiere traditionally, meaning when it first aired on the network at 9 p.m.

The numbers are likely to keep going up; HBO estimates that 32.8 million people watched each episode of the show last season. That includes people who watched weeks after it first aired and repeat viewers.

Viewership for the show is more impressive when you consider that HBO is a service that people have to specifically pay for. It is available in around 35 million households in the United States, or roughly a third of the number of homes that can see CBS, NBC and ABC.

Tiger Woods’ stirring comeback in the Masters gave CBS its biggest audience for that marquee golf tournament in six years, Nielsen said. Sunday’s final round, which was moved up several hours due to the threat of bad weather in Georgia, averaged 10.8 million viewers. The broadcast’s peak came when Woods won shortly after 2 p.m. ET, with 18.3 million viewers.

CBS easily won the week in primetime, averaging 7.1 million viewers. ABC had 4.5 million viewers, NBC had 3.7 million, Fox had 2.3 million, Univision had 1.3 million, ION Television had 1.2 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 700,000.

Fox News Channel was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 2.38 million viewers in prime time. MSNBC had 1.56 million, HGTV had 1.182 million, USA had 1.177 million and TNT had 1.11 million.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.9 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” was second with 7.5 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.5  million viewers.

Below are primetime viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen for April 8-14. Listings include the week’s ranking and viewership.

1. NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Virginia vs. Texas Tech, CBS, 19.72 million.
2. “NCIS,” CBS, 11.82 million.
3. “Game of Thrones,” HBO, 11.76 million.
4. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 8.72 million.
5. “The Code,” CBS, 8.14 million.
6. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 8.09 million.
7. “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 7.62 million.
8. “Survivor,” CBS, 7.6 million.
9. “NCAA Basketball Pre-Game Show,” CBS, 7.47 million.
10. “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 7.32 million.
11. “American Idol” (Sunday), ABC, 7.26 million.
12. “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8 p.m.), CBS, 6.98 million.
13. “God Friended Me,” CBS, 6.92 million.
14. “Hawaii Five-0,” CBS, 6.87 million.
15. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 6.83 million.
16. “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 6.82 million.
17. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS, 6.79 million.
18. “NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS, 6.7 million.
19. “American Idol” (Monday), ABC, 6.5 million.
20. “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 9 p.m.), CBS, 6.15 million.

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.; CBS is a division of CBS Corp.; Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox; NBC is owned by NBC Universal.

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