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Game of Thrones: the social show of the decade

Game of Thrones: the social show of the decade

With the final season of blockbuster hit Game of Thrones set to premiere on April 14, all eyes are on HBO for what is certain to be one of the most highly anticipated premieres of the year.

Plenty has been written about how this show has changed TV with its unique mix of genres, powerful storytelling, phenomenal production values and its ability to drive subscriptions, not just on HBO but all over the world (e.g. Sky Atlantic in the UK). My colleagues at Magid (Brett Bumgarner and Matt Lau) dug into our EmotionalDNA® database to extract some deeper insights into how this show has elevated itself above other premium dramas in what has been an increasingly crowded space.

Co-viewing reigns supreme at House Stark and House Lannister
The most recent season of Game of Thrones aired during the summer of 2017. We found that during that period, Game of Thrones was the top premium drama respondents said they viewed with friends.

Perhaps that might be expected. But at the close of Game of Thrones’ seventh season in 2017, 58% of audience members reported watching the show within a social context among other viewers (not friends alone as illustrated above), placing it in the 91st percentile within the entire television landscape in terms of social viewing. As a show, this makes it comparable to both sports and reality event programming such as NFL Football (58%) and America’s Got Talent (59%). In other words, it has become event television — a rare feat for any drama.

And co-viewing doesn’t stop there as illustrated by the large number of Game of Throne viewing parties taking place across the country this weekend.

Still on the throne, even on hiatus
Unlike ratings focused on the viewership of a specific episode, Magid has introduced an Incidence metric providing a more holistic look at viewership and allowing for comparison of audience size across broadcast, cable and streaming platforms (further explained in this piece on the cancellation of One Day at a Time).

Game of Thrones was also the drama that the highest portion of audiences reported talking with others about, and has even been able to sustain its social nature in the absence of new episodes. During the show’s 2018 hiatus and a year after airing any new episodes, more people reported talking with others about the show than any other drama also on hiatus, such as Mr. Robot, The Crown, Fargo and Stranger Things, with Game of Thrones even surpassing current programming in terms of its ability to spur word of mouth for all dramas in the television landscape outside of The Walking Dead.

According to Magid’s Incidence metric, Game of Thrones’ ability to create water cooler moments remained strong even during last year’s hiatus as illustrated against a comparative peer set below.

This hiatus viewership was on par with current NBA programming at the time and outpaced daytime stalwarts Judge Judy (11.6) and The Price is Right (11.3), as well as SVOD darling Orange is the New Black (11.2).  

Game of Thrones has received notable press for being the most pirated show even though it recently didn’t even make Bit Torrent’s 2018 ranking where Walking Dead took home the top slot. 

Amongst its many critical accolades (it’s the winningest drama series in Emmy history), Game of Thrones has consistently been one of the most highly evaluated shows on television and currently outranks all other programming in terms of quality according to our EmotionalDNA data. Since Magid began collecting survey respondents’ evaluations of television programs on a 1-5 scale of poor to excellent in 2014, the show has been evaluated higher than almost every other show in the entire television landscape. Only twice has Game of Thrones ever slipped beyond its top spot to second place: in late 2015, losing out to Downton Abbey, and during its hiatus in early 2018, with This Is Us taking the lead.

Equally loved by men and women
The appeal of Game of Thrones is even able to cross gender lines in ways that most dramas cannot. Not only was Game of Thrones the most highly evaluated show by both men and women in 2019, it is the only drama to be evaluated in the top ten for both men and women.

This cross-gender appeal holds true at the broader level of show generally – not just among dramas. While women’s top ten remains the same without a genre filter, men’s top 10 would include the anime show My Hero Academia, as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Last Week Tonight. We don’t see anything comparable across gender lines for Incidence, Intentionality, or any interactions/attributes.

In an increasingly balkanized television landscape, Game of Thrones stands out as a truly social viewing experience and as one of the few remaining water cooler shows on television.

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