Sunday night just keeps getting better for cable television. Ratings keep climbing for three of the night’s biggest shows – “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Bible” – further establishing cable channels as a force to be reckoned with.
The season three premiere of “Game of Thrones” shattered series records, bringing in 4.4 million viewers for the HBO series, according to CNN (a fellow Time Warner (NASDAQ:TWX) property). Repeat viewings are also expected to place total numbers closer to 6.7 million, not counting the millions of torrents being downloaded right this second. “Valar Dohaeris,” the season three opener, made no major jumps forward in terms of character, instead laying out a complex plot thread for the new season to follow.
Viewers were introduced to new conflicts among the Lannisters, as King Joffrey’s new lady-in-waiting works to drive a rift between him and his mother Cersei, and a scene between the new right hand of the king, Tywin Lannister, and his impish son, Tyrion, delivered one of the most emotionally brutal moments of the show so far. At the same time, the Starks and Baratheons have major decisions to make in their quests for the Iron Throne, and Daenarys has a major ethical dilemma to consider.
While “Game of Thrones” was only beginning its third season, AMC's “The Walking Dead” closed season three out with a somber note and its highest ratings ever. The AV Club reports that the closing episode “Welcome to the Tombs” pulled in a mind-blowing 12.4 million viewers, including 8.1 million in the coveted 18-to-49 age demographic.
On the whole, fans were largely pleased with the slow-burn plotlines that “Game of Thrones” set up on Sunday, but the “Walking Dead” fan base didn’t seem to enjoy the slow, somber finale that wrapped up the third season. Rather than pitting Rick’s survivors against the Governor in a full-scale final battle, the writers ramped up the Governor’s insanity and let that do all the work.
“The Walking Dead” kept things more morally complex and open ended, but didn’t totally satisfy the fans’ innate desire for bloodshed. Still, it’s unlikely that fans will abandon the show in its fourth season, especially considering the records set on Sunday.
Right behind ratings numbers for “The Walking Dead” was History Channel’s “The Bible,” which clocked in at 11.7 million viewers for the miniseries’ two-hour season finale. Appropriately for “The Bible’s” Easter Sunday airdate, the show tackled the life of Jesus.
All of these increased ratings point to a larger trend developing in television: viewers are increasingly excited about high-concept cable dramas, and many are willing to abandon traditional network TV in order to get their fix.