‘Game of Thrones’ premiere breaks HBO streaming records

The anticipated season 7 premiere of HBO’s flagship series “Game of Thrones” set a number of new records for the network on Sunday night, including again setting the record for the most-watched premiere in HBO’s history for any series, the company reports. But the show achieved another milestone as well – due to the popularity of HBO’s streaming apps HBO GO and HBO NOW, the premiere also saw the highest ever number of concurrent viewers across HBO’s streaming services, too.

In total, the season 7 premiere reached a combined audience of 16.1 million viewers across its linear TV airing, same day DVR playback, and streaming via HBO GO and HBO NOW. That’s a 50 percent increase over the season 6 premiere last year, HBO says.

Of those 16.1 million viewers, the majority were still watching on linear TV. The 9 PM linear premiere – meaning those who watch the show live via traditional pay TV – saw 10.1 million viewers tuning in, or a 27 percent increase from last season’s debut in April,  was then saw 7.9 million live TV viewers.

These increases could put “Game of Thrones” season 7 on track to bust season 6’s earlier records, it seems. Last season’s episodes ending up averaging a gross audience of 25.7 million viewers apiece. Season 7 has already started off ahead in terms of linear TV viewers, total viewers, and concurrent streaming viewers, which is a promising start for the new season.

Not surprisingly, this massive influx of viewers to HBO’s online services led to some glitches across HBO’s platform, where it operates the HBO GO streaming service for pay TV viewers, and HBO NOW, a $15 per month option for cord cutters.

Users on Twitter complained about HBO GO outages, but the network claims that the streaming service actually didn’t see widespread issues. Instead, it notes that it was the HBO GO service in Latin America that experienced outages, which the network is continuing to troubleshoot. U.S. viewers weren’t impacted by those specific problems, however.

Still, a number of viewers noted that the HBO.com website went down during the first half of the season 7 East Coast premiere, and only recovered during the final portion.

In addition, some issues users dealt with had to do with the authorization piece of HBO GO.

Many of the issues streaming users experienced with the HBO platform weren’t due to the platform itself buckling under the load – as is common with streaming services – but were instead problems with local distributors’ ability to authorize subscriber accounts due to the overwhelming number of requests. The network adds that those issues subsided quickly and service resumed as normal.

Of course, end users don’t care if it’s the platform or the authorization piece that’s failing – they just want it to work. But what’s interesting about the authorizations issue is that it actually makes the case for HBO NOW, where HBO handles the authentication, not HBO’s local distributors.

HBO’s streaming platforms have experienced issues in the past, but those problems have not been widespread for some time. Most notably, the 4th season premiere of “Game of Thrones” led to larger outages back in 2014, and then the finale of “True Detective” crashed the service as well, according to Hollywood Reporter. Later, in 2016, HBO NOW suffered problems during the “Battle of the Bastards” episode, said Deadline.