“Game of Thrones” is on fire.
Well, not literally, but the HBO fantasy drama is on track to score its most-watched season ever.
Business Insider looked at the total viewers for the first half of the current sixth season. According to Nielsen ratings data, season six of the HBO fantasy drama is averaging 7.65 million total viewers.
That’s 9.6% higher than the first half of last season. That also means that the “Thrones” viewing audience has grown an astounding 226% since the first five episodes of its first season.
Note that these numbers are based on live viewing of the first-run episodes. Repeat airings of the episode and on-demand, HBO Now, and HBO Go viewing can add a significant amount of viewers to the total.
The show’s astounding success is interesting in the face of HBO’s growing worries over online pirating. Its ratings are better than ever despite the rise in pirating, though illegal downloading may make a bigger dent in international viewership.
See how this season’s first half compares with the other five seasons of “Game of Thrones” in the graph below:
It’s extremely rare for a show to to see its ratings go up in its later seasons, especially by this much. NBC’s “ER,” for example, peaked in its third season. HBO’s cult hit “True Blood” saw viewers drop off after its fourth.
At the same time, it’s not totally unheard of for a show to find extreme success in its later seasons. CBS’s “NCIS,” for example, saw its peak at season 10.
The climbing ratings could have something to do with word of mouth about season six. The network and fans kept the discussion of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) death going throughout the months between seasons five and six.
Plus, book readers were possibly more motivated to watch the show this season, because it’s the first that surpasses the source material, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels.