Nielsen released their streaming data for the week of August 22nd through August 28th, which includes the premiere for House of the Dragon and the numbers do not look good for the Game of Thrones prequel.
House of the Dragon charted as the 6th most watched streaming series or program for the week with 741 million minutes viewed. That was behind Netflix’s Echoes, Me Time, Stranger Things, and NCIS as well as HBO Max’s Game of Thrones.
This is the first week the show made the Nielsen Top 10 list despite the show premiering on August 21st and its second episode releasing on August 28th.
The series did hit the third spot on Nielsen’s Acquired chart behind Game of Thrones and NCIS.
Game of Thrones had 909 million minutes viewed across a total of 73 episodes while NCIS had 770 million minutes viewed across 354 episodes.
The House of the Dragon premiere numbers are significantly behind Prime Video’s Wheel of Time, which premiered in November of last year with 1.163 billion minutes viewed albeit it The Wheel of Time debuted on the charts with its first three episodes.
Wheel of Time was the number two most streamed program behind Netflix’s Red Notice film for the week ending November 21, 2021.
These Nielsen ratings call into question the viewership numbers WarnerMedia touted the show having for its premiere. If you recall, WarnerMedia announced the show’s renewal for a second season towards the end of August.
In that renewal announcement the company originally claimed the premiere “drew 9.986 million viewers across linear and HBO Max platforms in the U.S. Sunday night, the largest audience for any new original series in the history of HBO.”
They went on to detail, “The premiere also marked the largest series launch on HBO Max across the U.S., LatAm, and EMEA, driving an unprecedented level of concurrent streams on the platform”
The press release also noted that premiere day viewership only constitutes “just 20%-40% of the show’s total gross audience.”
It has since been updated to claim that the series premiere had “been seen by over 20 million viewers across linear, On Demand and HBO Max platforms in the U.S., based on a combination of Nielsen data and first party data.”
A conservative reading of this Nielsen data indicates that on HBO Max the premiere had at most 11.4 million viewers, which is the total number of minutes divided by the episode’s run time of 65 minutes.
And that reading is assuming Nielsen didn’t factor in the second episode at all given House of the Dragon did not show up on Nielsen’s chart for the week ending August 21st despite the show premiere on that date. It also does not factor in any minutes the show garnered for the week ending August 21st given those numbers were unavailable since it didn’t chart.
The first assumption can be easily disputed given Nielsen notes in their charts they are tracking two episodes for the week ending August 28th. The second one can be disputed as well given The Hollywood Reporter did indicate that Nielsen informed them that the first episode was viewed 327 million minutes for the week ending August 21st.
If The Hollywood Reporter’s number is accurate one could argue the total premiere had 1.068 billion minutes viewed. That would mean the premiere had 16.4 million views.
However, given the show did have 327 million minutes in the first week, one could also argue that the second episode probably had around the same number or maybe even slightly higher given the show did had a 4% increase on cable between episodes one and two. So you’re still left with around 741 million minutes and you are back to 11.4 million viewers.
If you factor in the runtime of the second episode the average viewership for both episodes is around 9.05 million viewers.
Now, add that to Nielsen’s data for HBO on cable, which clocked in at 2.17 million viewers, and you get around 18.57 million or 11.2 million viewers. So somehow WarnerMedia is claiming that they found another 1.5 or 8.8 million viewers. It doesn’t add up.
But there might be an explanation. The Collinsville Police Pension Board recently filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleging that “WarnerMedia was improvidently concentrating its investments in streaming and ignoring its other business lines and WarnerMedia had overstated the number of subscribers to HBO Max by as many as 10 million subscribers, by including as subscribers AT&T customers who had received bundled access to HBO Max, but had not signed onto the service.”
If these allegations are true and WarnerMedia was cooking the books to boost the number of HBO Max subscribers by as many as 10 million, it’s not that hard to imagine that they would attempt to inflate the viewership of House of the Dragon as well.
And this tactic doesn’t seem to be unheard of when it comes to streaming services. A report from Business Insider claimed that Amazon Studios and Prime Video “will find a way, regardless of actual viewership, to sound the trumpets of victory.”
An alleged former Amazon executive told the outlet in regards to their The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series, “If it’s not the highest-performing thing Amazon has ever done, it’s a failure.”
The insider added the caveat, “If it’s not the highest-performing thing Amazon has ever done, it’s a failure.”
What do you make of these premiere viewership numbers from Nielsen?
**Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include data reported by The Hollywood Reporter pertaining to Nielsen’s data ending the week of August 21**