'Game of Thrones' Season 6 kicks off with high ratings globally

The sixth season of the HBO fantasy drama premièred on April 24 and the program set records in Britain and Australia.

Macall B. Polay/HBO
'Game of Thrones' stars Peter Dinklage (r.) and Conleth Hill (l.).

Ratings continued to be high for the sixth season première of the HBO drama "Game of Thrones," though in the United States, they received some help from streaming platforms to get there.

"Thrones," which debuted on April 24, had 7.9 million viewers tuning in to watch, according to Nielsen. When streaming numbers are added in from such services as HBO Go and HBO Now, that number climbs to 10.7 million viewers. This year's numbers show consistency in strong performances for "Thrones" premières. In 2015, about 8 million viewers tuned in for Season 5 opener.

And that success is continuing abroad as well. In Britain, the première of Season 6 gave network Sky Atlantic the best overnight ratings ever. In Australia, "Thrones" also performed extremely well, with the Season 6 première airing on Foxtel and the episode becoming the most-viewed show on a subscription channel ever.

These numbers show the international appeal of the program that takes place in a fictional fantasy land known as Westeros and stars various non-American actors. (Actor Peter Dinklage is one of the few actors from the US on the show.)

International viewership can be important for HBO. "HBO is a global business," Slate writer June Thomas noted in 2012. "It has about 60 million subscribers outside the United States – mostly in Central Europe, Latin America, and Asia – and it licenses its programs to channels around the world.... ['Game of Thrones' and its] epic tales of clans and kingship travel particularly well."

Richard Plepler, chief of HBO, announced earlier this year that HBO streaming will arrive in Argentina and Brazil. Business Insider writer Nathan McAlone notes that this echoes Netflix's strategy, which seems to involve going after international viewers as well.

"Now we're starting to see that HBO wants to become more like Netflix – particularly with regards to international expansion and supersizing production," writes Mr. McAlone. "[HBO's plans] echoes Netflix almost exactly, which has said it will double its production of originals this year, and produce a whopping 600 hours of original content, and which recently added 130 new countries. Netflix's thesis is that it can soar to profitability by creating a ton of (globally available) original content, and simultaneously expanding its subscriber base to reduce its cost per user."

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