Final ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Smashes HBO Viewer Records

As expected, the season-eight final episode of “Game of Thrones” broke both viewership records for the series as well as HBO.

Initial data suggests the final episode drew 19. 3 million viewers when tabulating initial broadcast, on-demand and some streaming. The tally broke the previous record set May 12 when 18.4 million people watched the penultimate episode broadcast, on-demand and streaming.

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The final season is averaging 44.2 million viewers, which is about 10 million more than season seven, according to HBO.

The previous HBO record occurred in 2002 with the fourth-season premiere of “The Sopranos,” which tracked 11.9 million viewers at a time when streaming video and on-demand distribution did not exist.

AT&T CEO: WarnerMedia Looking to Partner SVOD Service With Pay-TV Operators

WarnerMedia’s pending fourth-quarter soft-launch of a branded subscription streaming video service will look to partner with — rather than antagonize — third-party pay-TV operators.

Speaking May 14 at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Communications  Conference in New York, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, said the service would be centered around HBO and be included with a pay-TV subscription.

“The MVPDs, Comcast, we think are going to be an important partner to all of this,” Stephenson said. “If you’re a Comcast subscriber and you acquire HBO, you will get this [OTT video] capability with your HBO subscription on Comcast.”

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The proposed symbiotic relationship between SVOD and linear television distribution is significant considering the former was launched in part to replace pay-TV.

Indeed, Dish Network launched pioneering Sling TV in 2015 in an effort to offset declining satellite TV subscribers. AT&T followed with DirecTV Now.

Yet, online TV subscriber growth has cooled. Sling added just 7,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period, and DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subs compared to a gain of 312,000 subs last year.

Stephenson said the new SVOD service is projected to generate “tens of millions of subs” — a figure dependent upon AT&T sustaining its base of DirecTV and U-verse subscribers.

The strategy is not dissimilar with Comcast, which plans to launch an OTT service free to Xfinity subscribers, with non-subscribers charged a monthly fee.

“Keeping the satellite, the U-verse customer base in check and stable is really important because it’s going to be a major distribution platform [for SVOD],” Stephenson said. “And then we want to just continue to push digital distribution on top of that as well.”

Much of that distribution will be centered around HBO, which is currently generating strong viewership through the last season of “Game of Thrones”.

Stephenson said content investment at HBO has “stepped up considerably” this year with the second seasons of “Big Little Lies” and “Succession” slated to follow “Thrones,” in addition to new series, “Chernobyl”.

“We’ve got a lot of really great content coming online as ‘Game of Thrones’ winds down,” he said.

Penultimate ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Sets Series Viewership Record

The next-to-last “Game of Thrones” episode, titled “The Bells,” was watched May 12 by a record 18.4 million viewers across HBO’s linear, TV Everywhere (HBO Go) and SVOD platform HBO Now, exceeding the previous series high of 17.8 million viewers for the April 28 episode, “The Long Night,” focusing on the Battle of Winterfell.

The 9 p.m. airing reached a time-period high with an average of 12.5 million viewers, surpassing the season seven finale of 12.1 million viewers. The final season eight is averaging 43 million viewers per episode in gross audience, an increase of more than 10 million viewers compared to season seven.

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WarnerMedia Consolidates Home Entertainment Distribution

WarnerMedia on May 8 announced the transfer of HBO Enterprises and HBO Home Entertainment, home to the enormously popular “Game of Thrones” franchise, to Warner Bros.

The distribution of the US Turner Originals also is part of this realignment.

Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, will take leadership responsibility for activities of HBO Enterprises and the distribution of Turner content produced in the United States, according to a WarnerMedia news release.

HBO Home Entertainment will transfer to Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment and Games under the leadership of its president, Jim Wuthrich.

“Bringing these businesses all under one roof means we improve cooperation and create scale,” Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia, said in the release. “Acting as one will strengthen our position in an increasingly challenging marketplace.”

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Jim Wuthrich

Schlesinger added, “For the first time at our company, the diverse and unparalleled portfolio of genre-defining new and library programming created by HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner will be distributed globally by one group. This structure will enable us to speak with one voice, as we create new and innovative ways to license our top-quality programming to networks, channels and services globally, helping them grow their audiences and subscriber bases.”

Wuthrich, whose full title is president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment and Games, said, “While we have had a strategic alliance with HBO in the past that involved physical product distribution, we are now excited to welcome the digital transactional sales and marketing teams into the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment family. We look forward to sharing their iconic and acclaimed original programming with home entertainment audiences worldwide.”

SVOD Helps Push New Record Ratings for HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’

HBO said the second episode of the eighth and alleged final season of global hit “Game of Thrones” broke the premiere episode’s record-breaking viewer tally across all platforms.

The April 28 episode reached a series high in gross audience for the night, with 17.8 million viewers watching the battle of Winterfell in the episode titled “The Long Night.”

This tally included two linear TV airings from Sunday night and streaming on HBO Now and TV Everywhere app HBO Go. The 9 p.m. airing amassed 12 million viewers, marking a season high for the time period broadcast.

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The previous gross audience high was 17.4 million viewers for the premiere episode, which has now topped 38 million viewers.

Bill Hader in dark comedy ‘Barry’.

Separately, dark comedy “Barry,” starring Bill Hader as a disillusioned hit man, reached a second-season high in both gross audience and initial broadcast with 2.5 million viewers for the night and just over 2 million viewers at 10:30 p.m. That was 5% above the previous high set April 21.

The data includes two linear airings from Sunday night and streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go.

AT&T CFO: 27 Million People Watched ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Premiere

Viewership data for the final season of HBO’s hit fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” keeps growing.

Speaking on the April 24 fiscal call, AT&T CFO John Stephens said more than 27 million watched the premiere episode of season eight across all platforms, including subscription streaming video service HBO Now.

“Those numbers will show up in the second quarter customer accounts,” Stephens said.

HBO originally said 17.4 million people watched the episode on the pay-TV channel.

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Stephens said the series helped HBO Now generate record new subscribers in the days before the premiere episode.

Meanwhile, AT&T said the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner continues to positively affect the telecom’s bottom line.

New business unit WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO, Turner, AT&T’s regional sports network and Otter Media Holdings, reported first-quarter (ended March 31) operating income of more than $2.2 billion on revenue of more than $8.3 billion.

Warner Bros. saw operating income increase $164 million on revenue of $3.5 billion — the latter up from $3.2 billion in the previous-year period.

HBO saw operating income increase $32 million on revenue of $1.5 billion, down from revenue of $1.6 billion last year.

Turner saw operating income increase $82 million on revenue of $3.4 billion, down from revenue of $3.5 billion last year.

Finally, WarnerMedia confirmed an agreement with an affiliate of Related Companies to sell its office space at 30 Hudson Yards for about $2.2 billion.

The transaction is expected to close in late second-quarter 2019. AT&T will use proceeds from this transaction, along with additional planned sales of non-core assets, to reduce its $180 billion debt load following the Time Warner acquisition.

WarnerMedia earlier sold its 10% in Hulu to the Disney-controlled platform for $1.43 billion.

AT&T hopes to end fiscal 2019 with about $150 billion in debt.

‘Game of Thrones’ Final Season Premiere Tops Largest Streaming Night for HBO Now

The April 14 premiere of the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” generated record viewership for HBO, including standalone subscription streaming service HBO Now. The premiere accounted for largest night of streaming activity ever for HBO Now.

The previous streaming record was set in 2014 by the season one finale of “True Detective,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, which temporarily crashed TV Everywhere app, HBO Go.

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WarnerMedia said a record 17.4 million people watched the episode across all distribution formats, including pay-TV. The tally exceeded by more than 1 million the previous series high of 16.9 million viewers for the season seven finale.

HBO Now saw a jump of about 50% in viewing when compared to last season’s finale and nearly doubled (97%) when compared to the seventh-season premiere.

The 9 p.m. airing was viewed by 11.8 million viewers, surpassing the season seven premiere of 10.1 million viewers and slightly behind the season seven finale of 12.1 million viewers.

“Game of Thrones” season seven went on to average 32.8 million viewers per episode.

Merchandising: Ferrell and Reilly Pairing Is Elementary for Walmart

In a week highlighted by a modest slate of new releases, retailers didn’t put out much in the way of exclusives April 9.

The most notable was Walmart’s tie into Sony Pictures’ new Holmes & Watson and its stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Walmart offered a $22.96 DVD collection of three movies that teamed Ferrell and Reilly: Holmes & Watson, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Otherwise, retailers focused on promoting sales of catalog titles.

Target touted previous seasons of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in the lead-up to the debut of the final season. In addition to DVDs and Blu-rays of the show for as low as $14.99, many Targets have devoted significant space in the collectibles section of the electronics department to “Game of Thrones” merchandise, including new action figures, puzzles, games, plush dire wolves and more.

Best Buy touted previously released Steelbook editions and preorders for upcoming titles such as DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

Best Buy has an exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Warner’s Pandas documentary, due April 16 at $29.99. The film was released widely through digital retailers on April 9.

Comcast, HBO Partner for ‘Game of Thrones’ Interactive Features

In the ongoing buildup to the April 14 premiere of the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Comcast Cable has partnered with the WarnerMedia subsidiary affording X1 subscribers interactive companion features for the last season.

X1 subs can select which “Game of Thrones” character they believe will claim the Iron Throne by saying “For the Throne” into the X1 voice remote.

This polling feature can be accessed at any time and enables subs to make their selection, see how it stacks up against other viewers in real time, and opt to send a special “Thrones” badge featuring the selected character to their mobile phone to share their allegiance across social networks.

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As events of the show unfold each week, subs can update their king or queen selection as often as they like by saying “For the Throne” into their voice remote.

Subs can hear quotes from the show’s main characters, including “Khaleesi,” “Jon Snow,” “Tyrion Lannister,” “Jaime Lannister,” “ Cersei Lannister,” “Arya Stark” and “Sansa Stark” spoken back to them. These new audio “dragon eggs” will remain on the platform throughout the season.

Finally, subs can explore a “Game of Thrones” destination on Xfinity On Demand by saying “Winter is Coming” into the voice remote.

The platform features exclusive content including: individual character recaps from cast members; 60-second series summaries from celebrities like Bill Hader and Henry Winkler; a video montage dedicated to all the characters who died; behind-the-scenes footage, including special effects, locations, and costumes; a Throne Room Yule Log; up-to-date“Thrones” news via YouTube; and “Thrones-inspired playlists from Pandora.

“Game of Thrones” continues to be the #1 series on Xfinity On Demand,”  Brynn Lev, VP, editorial & programming, content strategy & operations for Comcast Cable, wrote in a blog post.

Comcast is also streaming all past seasons of the show through its annual Watchathon binge-viewing event ending April 14.

 

 

Book Retailer Marketing Companion Titles for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Original Shows

If you can’t beat subscription streaming, join over-the-top video.

Books-A-Million, the Birmingham, Ala.-based chain of 200 bookstores, has issued a list of companion books to favorite Netflix, Hulu and other streaming titles. This list complements popular TV shows and movie titles, including “You,” “Stranger Things,” Bird Box, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up,” among others.

“Think of the book as the uncut version of the movie or TV series – there is better character development, the plot is deeper, the blanks are filled in, there may be an alternate ending and there might be a sequel,” Margaret Terwey, senior buyer for Books-A-Million, said in a statement. “That’s why we think the book is better and why we encourage our customers to simultaneously stream and read.”

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel ($28) by Gwenda Bond is a brand-new prequel providing readers with secrets and the background of Eleven’s mother.

Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders ($14.99) inspired the Amazon Prime series, which sets main character Hercule Poirot on the trail of an alphabetical serial killer.

You ($17) by Caroline Kepnes prompted the popular Netflix series about a young man who meets a woman and becomes obsessed with being her perfect partner, removing any obstacles in his way.

Josh Malerman’s Bird Box ($15.99) is a hit Netflix film (80 million viewers) about a post-apocalyptic world in which a monster lives, and anyone who sees the mysterious force is driven to deadly violence.

Decluttering guru and Netflix star Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up ($18.99) has revolutionized homes and lives across the world, and fanatics can go even further with her book featuring step-by-step illustrations.

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From the host of the television series and podcast “MeatEater,” The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler ($35) by Steven Rinella is a guide to cooking wild game, featuring more than 100 new recipes.

Now on Netflix, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking ($37.50) by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton is an ambitious new approach to cooking by mastering the use of the four title elements.

The Game of Thrones prequel by George R. R. Martin, Fire and Blood – 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones ($35), helps readers dive deeper into the history of the Targaryens.

Available in paperback in April 2019, The One ($15.99) by John Marrs explores a company that promises to match people up with their soulmates via DNA testing.

Finally, fans of the movies that are streaming on Hulu and anyone anticipating the upcoming Amazon Prime Video original series will want The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set ($49.95), a four-volume set containing The Hobbit and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.