Just when you thought "Game of Thrones" couldn't get any more badass, the bloody, blockbuster HBO series goes and takes down a giant -- "The Sopranos", to be exact.
HBO has revealed that "Thrones" has now officially surpassed "The Sopranos" to become the network's most-watched series ever, with the show earning an average of 18.4 million viewers per episode during its four-season run. That's up from former champ "Sopranos," which accumulated an average of 18.2 million sets of eyeballs during its viewership height in 2002.
Not only has "Thrones" outdone Tony and co., but it's also bested itself: Its ratings for season three averaged only 14.4 million viewers, and the hits don't stop there. Per Variety:
The show's fourth-season premiere in April drew a series-record 6.635 million viewers for its initial telecast - a series high and the largest audience for any HBO program since the finale of "The Sopranos," which drew 11.9 million in 2007. The highest in recent years had been 5.53 million for "True Blood" in August 2011.
"Thrones" has topped that number a few times this season, peaking with 7.195 million on May 18. Its most recent episode, last Sunday, drew the show's second largest same-night audience to date (7.17 million).
Of course, given today's DVR and on demand culture, those 18.4 million viewers aren't all watching live. HBO calculated that sum based on a few different variables known as "live-plus-7 data," which looks at how many people view the show when it airs originally, plus encore broadcasts, on HBO Go, and On Demand during the week following an episode's first run.
But in this day and age, 18 million-plus is nothing to sneeze at, and HBO knows it. The network has already renewed "Thrones" for a fifth and sixth season, and with more books set to arrive from author George R.R. Martin, on whose "A Song of Ice and Fire" series the show is based, there's plenty more opportunities for ratings records to be broken.
We'd tell you to stay tuned, but HBO is already banking on it.
Photo by Macali B. Polay/courtesy of HBO