Aug 23, 2022 - Economy

"House of the Dragon" sets HBO record

Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

HBO's highly anticipated "Game of Thrones" prequel broke records as the largest premier in HBO history, the company said Monday.

Why it matters: The prequel shows the power of extending popular franchises back in time for super-fans.

  • It also proves HBO can still market hits under its new ownership.

Details: "House of the Dragon" drew nearly 10 million viewers across HBO's cable channel and HBO Max in its U.S. debut Sunday night, the largest audience for any new original series in the history of HBO, the company said.

  • The series generated the highest viewership for any premium cable or streaming premiere in 2022, exceeding the initial same-day viewership of Netflix's "Stranger Things," per Samba TV, a TV tech and insights company.
  • The show was 23x more in-demand than the average show among U.S. consumers the day before it launched, per Parrot Analytics, a content insights company, and was in even more demand globally.

Yes, but: A groundswell of interest caused the HBO Max app to crash for thousands of people in the U.S. on Sunday night, Axios' Hope King reported.

Catch up quick: Based on the George R.R. Martin novel "Fire & Blood," the new HBO series focuses on the events of the Targaryen family nearly 200 years before "Game of Thrones."

  • The show debuted more than three years after the final season of "Game of Thrones" which was not well-received among fans and critics.
  • The original "Game of Thrones" series had its strongest week on HBO Max ever in the week leading up to the premier of "House of the Dragon," HBO said.

The big picture: "Game of Thrones" proved critical in helping HBO Max lure viewers to its other TV shows. Analysts say HBO Max will be successful if it can find ways to use "House of the Dragon" to lure eyeballs to its other streaming content.

  • "The next challenge, and the real opportunity for HBO in the coming weeks, is to expand viewership beyond the passionate built-in fan base," said Ashwin Navin, Co-Founder & CEO of Samba TV.
  • In order to maximize its value, the show needs to help drive users to other titles that are available exclusively available on HBO Max, said Wade Payson-Denney, a communications manager at Parrot Analytics. That's what will ultimately help HBO Max drive long-term subscribers.

Of note: The successful debut of "House of the Dragon" comes as Warner Bros. Discovery tries to streamline its content strategy.

  • While the company is cutting back on some titles, it's doubling down on others that it thinks will be able to drive a significant return on investment.
  • The company spent more promoting "House of the Dragon" than on any other show in HBO's history.

What to watch: "House of the Dragon" is the latest prequel to draw big interest. The show debuted just days after the popular "Breaking Bad" prequel "Better Caul Saul" ended after six seasons.

  • "Fear the Walking Dead," which debuted in 2015 as a prequel to "The Walking Dead," is still currently airing on AMC in its seventh season.
  • "Young Sheldon" just finished its fifth season with another two seasons on the way. The show is a prequel to "The Big Bang Theory," that's framed as a coming-of-age story as opposed to a sitcom.

What's next: Amazon Prime's upcoming series "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" is another upcoming prequel, focusing on events thousands of years before "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."

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