Winter isn't just coming, it's inescapable. At least, that's the way it may seem to anyone feeling overwhelmed by the deluge of previews, teasers, and marketing tie-ins around this Sunday's Game of Thrones season premiere.
HBO's popular fantasy epic series returns to TV this weekend to kick of its seventh (and penultimate) season, with the first of seven episodes that will air this year. The first six seasons of Game of Thrones were a hit with fans and critics alike, as the series dominated awards shows while attracted huge TV ratings. The show is so popular that fans are clamoring for Time Warner's HBO to produce more Game of Thrones-related shows after the final 13 episodes air over the next two seasons (and, HBO is planning on fulfilling those wishes with multiple spin-offs potentially in the works).
So, after all of the hype, how many people will actually tune in for "Dragonstone," the title of Sunday night's season 7 premiere episode? Last year, HBO said that each episode of Game of Thrones' sixth season averaged more than 25 million total viewers, which was up by almost 5 million from the previous season. However, those numbers include viewers watching live on cable or streaming services (like HBO Go and HBO Now) as well as those who watched episodes later on DVR, on-demand, or in repeats.
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Meanwhile, last year's season premiere set an all-time high with 10.7 million people tuning in, either on traditional cable or streaming online, according to Nielsen. That total represented a 9% uptick from the season 5 premiere (9.8 million). With another viewership increase, this weekend's premiere could easily top 11 million viewers across cable and online.
Not much is known about what will happen in the next episode of Game of Thrones—HBO stopped sending preview screeners to TV critics in recent years to avoid spoilers leaking out—beyond the usual guesses. But, we can be fairly certain that millions of people will be glued to their televisions, computers, and mobile devices when the premiere on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.