It’s being reported at various places around the interwebs that HBO has gone ahead and greenlit a second season of Game of Thrones, following solid but not great numbers on premiere night.
The show opened with 2.2 million viewers in its timeslot premiere, and then added another 1.2 million in the first encore and .8 million in the second encore. The aggregate total of 4.2 million viewers puts it behind the premiere of Boardwalk Empire, another much-hyped recent offering from HBO. As Sepinwall mentions in his piece, there are multiple factors to explain this, including the lead-in (Mildred Pierce? I watch a lot of tv and even I didn’t watch this, nor did anyone I know) and the lack of established HBO properties this spring to serve as a marketing launch pad (Big Love doesn’t count, because by season 5 it was an out and out dumpster fire).
Rather than using Boardwalk Empire as a benchmark, a better comparison is probably True Blood, another genre show, which bowed to 1.4 million viewers yet has grown to over 5 million for the most recent season 3 premiere.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the numbers don’t matter much. As a fan, did I hope they would be better? Of course. I wanted this show to premiere to massive numbers, leaving the ladies of Wisteria Lane kneeling in the cul-de-sac ripping their hair and wondering why their viewers had forsaken them (too much?). But HBO has a lot invested in this show, not only here but overseas, and I think the second season pickup was all but inevitable regardless of the premiere numbers. Nevertheless, now we officially know that we’ll get at least two seasons in Westeros, and I’m confident that the quality of the story will grow the audience to the point that we’ll get additional seasons as well.
The full press release is available at TV by the Numbers.