House of the Dragon's roaring success shows Game of Thrones isn't dead yet

Matt Smith's Daemon Targaryen rests on his sword in King's Landing's throne room in House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon set a new TV premiere record for HBO and HBO Max. (Image credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones is dead, long live Game of Thrones.

It appears that reports of Game of Thrones' death have been greatly exaggerated. Why? Because House of the Dragon, the first spin-off show from HBO's live-action adaptation of George R.R Martin's beloved fantasy novels, has just become the most-watched series premiere in HBO history.

In a press release, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – the owners of HBO and its sister streamer HBO Max – revealed that House of the Dragon's first episode drew in 9.986 million viewers during opening night. While that figure only accounts for US households, Warner Bros. Discovery also confirmed that House of the Dragon was HBO Max's biggest series launch in Latin America, as well as Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) – territories where the streamer is available.

Additionally, interest in Game of Thrones spiked among HBO Max subscribers in the weeks leading up to House of the Dragon's release. WBD confirmed that the eight-season fantasy series has enjoyed week-on-week growth since June, with total audience engagement 90% higher in the days leading up to House of the Dragon's premiere than seven weeks previously.

In the UK, House of the Dragon also posted sizeable viging figures following the premiere's release on Sky. According to TechRadar's sources, 1.39 million viewers tuned in to watch the show's first episode in the 24 hours post-launch – numbers that helped it overtake Game of Thrones as the biggest-ever drama launch on Sky Atlantic.

"Viewing over the last 24 hours for House of the Dragon across Sky and NOW TV has been as epic as the show itself," Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content at Sky, said. "The response has already been phenomenal – and we’re confident the figures will grow significantly once all on demand figures consolidate and we have the total picture of viewing."

Clearly, then, audiences haven't completely turned their backs on the Game of Thrones franchise, which will be seen as a big win for Warner Bros. Discovery, particularly in light of some industry commentatorsourselves included – suggesting that, in the wake of Game of Thrones' maligned eighth season, global interest in House of the Dragon, and Game of Thrones overall, had waned.

Rhaenyra Targaryen rides a dragon towards King's Landing in House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon reigns supreme in the HBO Max TV show stakes. (Image credit: HBO)

House of the Dragon's roaring success delivers a brief respite to Warner Bros. Discovery – the brand created by the recent merger of the two companies – following weeks of bad press. The conglomerate has faced fierce backlash (and rightly so) over the cancellation of DCEU movie Batgirl, plus the removal of numerous fan-favorite shows and films from HBO Max.

In much the same way that Stranger Things season 4 provided some relief to Netflix amid its recent financial and subscriber woes, House of the Dragon appears to have done likewise for WBD. People are talking about House of the Dragon's most brutal scenes rather than the corporation's problems – the HBO Max series was Twitter's top trending topic for 14 hours straight post-release.

Martin's own involvement in shaping House of the Dragon is sure to have aided its overnight success as well. The acclaimed author recently revealed (via WSJ magazine) that he had a more prominent role in the spin-off show than he did in Game of Thrones' latter seasons. Given that we ranked three of Game of Thrones' final four seasons as the worst of its run, Martin's influence on the original series' structuring, plot threads, mature themes, and character arcs played a significant role in its early success. House of the Dragon will have benefitted from Martin's extensive consultancy role on its development, with the show's initial 10-episode run profiting from his involvement.

It's still early days for House of the Dragon, but all signs point toward it being as successful as Game of Thrones was a decade ago. Warner Bros. Discovery can take heart from its promising start – and not only from the fact that it eases the pressure on the beleaguered organization. The company has other Game of Thrones spin-offs in development – a Jon Snow-centric series and The Sea Snake among others – and House of the Dragon's initial success proves that there's still an audience for Westeros-based programming. 

In light of its recent struggles, WBD needed a big win, and House of the Dragon has actually delivered two: one for the corporation at large, and one for its live-action Game of Thrones franchise. The death knell hasn't been rung on the latter just yet, and it has House Targaryen, its dragons, and politically-charged drama to thank for that.

For more HBO-based coverage, check out the best HBO Max movies. Alternatively, read up on what's leaving the streamer by the end of August.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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