HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon has been struggling to find its narrative footing throughout the course of the first five episodes, but that may only be a part of why it’s having trouble attracting viewers. An article by TV Series Finale analyzed the viewership data for the new show, and things aren’t exactly looking rosy.

House of the Dragon, HBO

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The show debuted with 2.170 million viewers, which may sound like a lot, but it’s a far cry from the glory days when Game of Thrones was the hot topic at the office water cooler. That seminal epic also debuted with a similar number – 2.22 million viewers – and gained a further 10+ million more over the course of its run. By contrast, House of the Dragon is running in the opposite direction.

The show saw a rather precipitous drop in viewership with the third episode of the season, shedding 22.7% of its audience for a total of 1.75 million, not counting HBO Max. It managed to tick up incrementally with the last two episodes, nestling uncomfortably in the 1.829 million range. 

Nielsen viewership ratings for House of the Dragon, HBO

      Nielsen viewership ratings for House of the Dragon, HBO

The sour taste of season eight of Game of Thrones may have had a lot to do with HBO failing to attract its previous audience. That season debuted with an astonishing 17+ million total viewers, and ended with a grand total of 13.6 million U.S. viewers who wanted to see how things wrapped up. Many felt jilted by the narrative mess that unfolded. 

Another theory is that GOT fever has died down considerably since 2019, with many feeling as if the story had been wrapped up. The adaptation of source material to create a prequel series may have been a noble one, but as many fans have pointed out, “all roads lead to Bran the Broken.”

Lady Alicent and Princess Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon, HBO

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This is a poisonous cocktail working against HBO’s favor, and could have possibly been avoided if the showrunners threw a tremendous amount of money and resources at the first half of the season, in order to create a more exciting and compelling narrative. As it stands, House of the Dragon shuffled its way through the first five episodes, gaining a bit of much-needed steam only in the fifth episode.

Many fans of the show also went on to read the original novels by author George R.R. Martin, only to realize that the showrunners ran out of material before Game of Thrones’ story was wrapped up. To date, Martin has dragged his feet on the latest novel, which means longtime fans are still waiting for the official end to the story.

The Night King raises the dead in Game of Thrones, HBO

The Night King raises the dead in Game of Thrones, HBO

What started out as a monumentally groundbreaking piece of pop culture iconography has since slumped into an incohesive stupor, and audiences know it. On its own, House of the Dragon isn’t a terrible show, but when placed beside Game of Thrones, it’s a massive letdown. It seems as if everyone, including George R.R. Martin, has lost faith in the property.

When that occurs, audiences follow suit. After all, why tune in week after week to watch a show they feel nobody really believes in? Of course, there is a chance the showrunners may be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat before the end of season one, but if they fail, it’s doubtful HBO will spend boatloads of cash on a second. 

Rhaenys and Corlys in House of the Dragon

Rhaenys and Corlys in House of the Dragon, HBO

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The current ratings for House of the Dragon are extremely unstable, and seeing viewership numbers tumble lower than the original season of Game of Thrones is one hell of a bad omen. As it stands, the audience for House of the Dragon seems to have plateaued, falling far below expectations for a franchise of this caliber. 

Rhaenyra is crowned named heir to the throne in House of the Dragon, HBO

Rhaenyra is crowned named heir to the throne in House of the Dragon, HBO

What exactly is killing House of the Dragon? Is it the memory of GOT season eight, the underwhelming narrative, or franchise fatigue? Let us know in the comments below. 

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  • About The Author

    Slade Hale
    Professional Writer

    Slade has been writing for some of the most prolific pop culture publications since the mid-90s, including GamePro, CinemaBlend, ScreenRant, and more.