HBO Has Lost Half Its Viewers Since That Disastrous ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale

It's not even the world's most pirated show anymore. Oh, how the mighty fall.


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It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that the Game of Thrones finale was an irredeemable disappointment, and it is a disappointment that keeps on giving. Or rather, taking.

According to a Variety round-up of the ratings winners and losers during 2020: “Without Game of Thrones, HBO saw more than half of its adults 18-49 linear audience disappear in 2020”.

Before you say that this number was probably just the people who only watched  HBO for Game Of Thrones in the first place, it’s not quite that simple. It is more likely that, along with the channel providing a morale-murdering end to a once-beloved series, HBO didn’t have enough content to entice GOT viewers to stick around.

Back in the year of our Lord 2015 I signed up for Netflix to watch Orange Is The New Black. It wasn’t really my thing, but the reason I still have the subscription is that Netflix had some other shows I ended up loving. I came for beautiful complex inmates of Litchfield but stayed for the wacky and wonderful Netflix originals like The OA, Bojack Horseman, and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Once Game of Thrones finished, both literally and spiritually in the hearts and minds of its viewers, HBO didn’t offer much in the way of prestige fiction to fill the void it left behind. In a year when more people are watching TV than in recent history losing half of your adult viewership is no mean feat, and speaks as much to a lack of enticing programming as it does to the impact of Game Of Thrones‘ disappointing end

Meanwhile, HBO’s streaming service, HBO Max, could be a standout streaming service in 2021 — as it’s been confirmed the service will be exclusively be streaming Warner Bros.’ 2021 theatrical releases, including The Matrix 4, Dune, The Suicide Squad, and many others — it is not yet available in Australia because of HBO’s deal with Foxtel.

The question is: Will acquiring these big theatrical releases for their streaming service be enough to shake the lacklustre legacy left to HBO’s brand by Game of Thrones? (I mean, people aren’t even stealing Game of Thrones like they used to. The Mandolorian has officially surpassed Game of Thrones as the most pirated TV show.)

Game of Thrones showed us how the dedication to a story can oh-so quickly be destroyed with a whole lot of hubris and a misplaced coffee cup. If HBO Max’s current predicament is anything to go by, the Game of Thrones debacle continues to teach us that the consequences of carelessness are far-reaching, and the road to recovery is long.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that HBO, not HBO Max, has lost half its viewers since the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale.

Merryana Salem is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian critic, teacher, researcher and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. If you want, check out her podcast, GayV Club where she gushes about LGBT rep in media with her best friend. Either way, she hopes you ate something nice today.