‘Game of Thrones’ finale brings a record 19.3 million viewers to HBO on Sunday

HBO’s highly anticipated finale of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday was the most watched program in the premium cable network’s history, with 19.3 million viewers.

Citing Nielsen data, HBO said 13.6 million viewers watched the final TV chapter of the Stark family saga on television, surpassing the 13.4 million viewers who tuned in for the fourth season premiere of “The Sopranos” in the pre-streaming days of September 2002.

Another 5.7 million viewers watched online through HBO Now and HBO Go. The previous audience high for a “Game of Thrones” episode was 18.4 million on May 12.

Viewing for the “Game of Thrones” finale was higher than the 18 million people who tuned in for the final episode of television’s most watched comedy, “The Big Bang Theory,” which aired Thursday on CBS. But that number is expected to go up significantly when delayed viewing is added in.

While any network would love to have audiences the size of the two recent finales, the big collective gatherings of viewers saying goodbye to beloved major TV series are simply not as big as they used to be.

Streaming, DVRs and on-demand viewing allow people to catch up on their favorite shows if they can’t be in front of a screen to watch at air time.

Such farewells generated massive audiences before the TV landscape was fragmented by streaming and the multitude of choices offered by cable.

The finale of “Friends,” which ended its original run on NBC in 2004, was watched by 52.5 million. NBC’s “Seinfeld” drew 76 million in its 1998 finale.

The biggest finale episode ever was for “MASH,” which pulled in 106 million viewers on CBS in 1983. It held the record for the most-watched TV program of all time until Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 scored 106.4 million.

The “MASH” audience was so large, New York City reported a drop in water pressure during the commercial breaks.

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