The fourth season premiere of “Game of Thrones” gave HBO its largest audience since the 2007 finale of mafia drama “The Sopranos,” after an average 6.6 million people tuned in to watch the first episode, “Two Swords,” the network said Monday.
The highly anticipated premiere of the fantasy epic series based on the book “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, beat out its Season 3 premiere viewership of 4.4 million viewers and topped its all-time-high audience of 5.5 million for the sixth episode of Season 3. HBO said a total of 8.2 million people watched the Season 4 premiere, including two replays. Due to an “overwhelming demand,” HBO Go, the network’s internet streaming service for subscribers, crashed. The 2007 finale of “The Sopranos” had 11.9 million viewers tuning in.
According to TorrentFreak, more than a million people downloaded pirated copies of the season premiere in the first 12 hours after it aired on HBO. For the past two consecutive years, "Game of Thrones" has been receiving the title of the most pirated show on television, with 5.9 million BitTorrent downloads in 2013.
After the slaughter of the main members of the Stark family in the “Red Wedding” episode last season, the premiere of the fourth season saw the rest of the Stark members coming to terms with the deaths. The episode also featured some new characters like Oberyn Martell, better known as the Red Viper, and Ellaria Sand, his paramour, in King’s Landing, while Styr and the Thenns were introduced beyond the Wall. Fans also saw a new face to Daario Naharis, being played by Michiel Huisman replacing Ed Skrein, the leader of the Second Sons and a possible love interest for Daenerys Targaryen.
The debut of tech comedy, "Silicon Valley," reportedly averaged 2 million viewers following "Game of Thrones," while the Season 3 premiere of political satire "Veep" averaged 955,000. The premiere episode of “Silicon Valley” was also made available for free on YouTube.