The Sopranos

Have More People Watched ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO?

HBO has had so many great series over the years that it’s hard to keep track. Between comedy gems like Veep and innovative narrative series like The Wire, fans of every kind of TV show have had something to enjoy on the network.

However, not every series has attracted big audiences. Some of the critical darlings (including The Wire) proved steady but overall unremarkable in terms of ratings. That was never the case for The Sopranos, which represented a smash-hit with audiences, TV critics, and awards voters.

To get an idea of the show’s popularity, just look at its season premiere numbers. The Sopranos’ peak performance (22.6 million viewers for the 2001 opener) remains in the record books at HBO. That number represents a bigger premiere than Game of Thrones, HBO’s current ratings sensation, has managed to date.

But GoT put up season-long numbers The Sopranos never managed over its six-season run. Overall, GoT has been the most-watched show at HBO — even before the final season has made its debut.

‘Game of Thrones’ domination in overall viewers

To get an idea of the sheer scale of the Game of Thrones audience, simply look at The Sopranos record that stood for more than a decade. The mob series averaged 18.2 million viewers per episode in 2002, which was at the time an astounding number.

It was such a strong performance, in fact, that it took until 2014 for GoT to surpass it. But the fantasy series took over the season viewership record (18.4 million) during its fourth season. In Season Five, it broke its own record — and continued doing so each time around through its past (seventh) season.

After the final tally, it turned out GoT had cracked 31 million average viewers across Season Seven. Even with the stolen streams, password sharing, and other ways people have snuck in views, it attracted 13 million more viewers per show than The Sopranos ever did.

It’s easily the most popular show in HBO history.

‘GoT’ may break the remaining ‘Sopranos’ record in April.

  • The SopranosThe Sopranos | HBO via Getty Images

As for that final Sopranos record (the 2002 season premiere audience), Game of Thrones might be about to take over that record as well. When the final season premiere drops on April 14, it could break the 23 million-viewer mark.

Those results will include DVR views and late streaming, but those numbers count these days as well. If we had to gamble, we’d say the Season Eight premiere will top that last Sopranos record.

It makes some people wonder: Would Tony, Carmela, and A.J. Soprano, command as many viewers in the current era where delayed viewing is possible? No one knows for sure, but it seems possible, given the brilliance of creator David Chase and the rest of the show’s cast and crew.

In 10 years or so, we’ll be able to gauge how fans really feel about Game of Thrones. If people are still questioning the creators about the show’s end and wondering when the next prequel we’ll arrive, we’ll be able to say for certain that it’s The Sopranos‘ equal.

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