'Game of Thrones' season debut breaks HBO rating records

Los Angeles — The first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones is a record-breaker for the series and HBO.

The pay channel said the 17.4 million viewers who watched Sunday's episode either on TV or online represent a season-opening high for the fantasy saga.

HBO Now also posted its biggest streaming night ever, the channel said on Monday.

The episode topped the 16.1 million who saw the seventh-season premiere and the 16.9 million who watched that season's finale.

Reflecting increasing audience fondness for streaming, HBO saw about a 50 percent increase in online viewing compared to last season's finale. In comparison to the season-seven premiere, the streaming audience nearly doubled.

Game of Thrones ultimately averaged 32.8 million viewers per episode last season in cumulative TV and online viewership, HBO said.

Catch Game of Thrones Mondays on M-Net (DStv 101) Express from the US at 03:00 or during primetime at 22:00. The episodes will also be available on Showmax at 22.00.