“House of the Dragon” Is Officially a Hit. Get Ready for at Least Three More “Thrones” Spinoffs.

HBO is reportedly "ecstatic" after 10 million viewers tuned in for last Sunday's premiere

A still from the House of the Dragon premiere.
The "House of the Dragon" premier reeled in over 7 million more viewers than the "Better Call Saul" finale.

Well, that answers that.

HBO released its audience figures yesterday for last Sunday’s premiere of House of the Dragon — the very first and very crucial spinoff to Game of Thrones — and they’re a doozy. An astonishing 9.986 million viewers tuned in, which is an all-time record for any “new original series” in a near half-century of HBO programming.

Of course, the fanbase for House of the Dragon isn’t entirely new or original; a little over three years ago, 19.3 million people tuned in to watch the Thrones finale. But there were massive concerns within HBO, after a bungled ending that saw the series become a punching bag on social media, that the service might’ve lost the trust and attention of onetime diehards.

This number confirms that fans have either forgiven HBO for the ending of Season Eight, or have missed Westeros for so many months that they no longer care. (Keep in mind: a lot has happened in our world, since Thrones wrapped up in spring of 2019.)

In a press release, HBO wrote: “[House of the Dragon drove] an unprecedented level of concurrent streams on the platform.Typically, Sunday night viewership for a HBO series will represent just 20%-40% of the show’s total gross audience.” The release doesn’t share the percentage of viewership that House of the Dragon accounted for on Sunday night, but somewhere over 50% sounds right.

That’s the sort of monocultural moment that Thrones used to command all the time in its unprecedented 2011-2019 run. But in the age of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, Paramount+…and oh yeah, the usual schedule of sports, not even the most optimistic Warner executive would’ve prognosticated that this premiere would outperform last week’s finale of a beloved show (Better Call Saul) by over 7 million viewers.

The screen success directly corresponds to social media impressions, too. HBO reports: “On premiere day, House of the Dragon was the longest trending topic on Twitter, ranking #1 for 14 hours straight, and trended #1 on Google Trends.”

There is one immediate upshot of this. HBO is going to take a page out of the Disney+ playbook — which seems to drop a new Marvel or Star Wars limited-series every other month — and forge ahead with more spinoffs. While spinoffs are unfamiliar territory for HBO, it’s difficult for the programming giant to dismiss a property with this level of obsessive interest.

What can we expect? A lot. The projects we’re most likely to see next are two more prequels. One of them, tentatively titled 10,000 Ships, even has an IMDB logline: “Set 1,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series tells the story of warrior queen Princess Nymeria and the surviving Rhoynars who traveled from Essos to Dorne following their defeat by Valyrian and their dragons.” The other, called The Sea Snake, would be a spinoff of House of the Dragon (try to keep up), and would feature Corlys Velaryon, an adviser to King Viserys, whom we met just two days ago. He is considered the greatest seafarer in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. So…a Captain Jack Sparrow caper, then.

Beyond those two, expect our first sequel to Thrones, with Kit Harrington reportedly signed to reprise his role as Jon Snow. It’ll feature some sort of drama behind the Wall. (Hopefully no White Walkers this time around, for his sake.) There are also rumors of a gritty show about Flea Bottom (the King’s Landing slum), a buddy-cop show about a knight and his squire (Ser Duncan the Tall and a boy who turns out to be King Aegon V Targaryen) and even animated series.

Considering the cautious approach that HBO has taken to releasing its first spinoff — before settling on House of the Dragon, it cancelled a different prequel after filming the pilot — there’s a chance that some of these shows don’t make it to the finish line.

But that’s probably a good thing. Fans love traveling to a galaxy far, far away, but it loses a bit of the luster when they can make the trip weekly. Thrones creators would be wise to revel in the success of this comeback, but to stagger future projects on a timeline that will keep the continents of Westeros and Essos feeling fresh.

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