"Game of Thrones" Season 6 chose violence, reunions, revivals, fire, blood, and punching Ramsay Bolton in the face -- 21 times -- and it all paid off.

When fans can actually watch the show (hint, hint, HBO Now) they watch with the force of the entire population of Australia. HBO just shared streaming and Nielsen data exclusively with USA Today, claiming the series has averaged 23.3 million viewers across all platforms, which is a 15 percent rise from last year. And, actually, that data was through June 17, so it didn't even include the June 19 "Battle of the Bastards" that crashed HBO Now from excessive demand.

Here's more of the breakdown, from USA Today:

"Sunday premiere ratings are up 6%, to 7.3 million, while overall TV and on-demand viewership is up 4%. But viewing on HBO Now and HBO Go digital platforms skyrocketed 70% over last season, to about 2.5 million streams, reflecting growth in HBO Now subscriptions since the app's launch in April 2015.

[...] HBO says HBO Now had 800,000 subscribers as of Jan. 1, a figure that has presumably climbed since then. [...] The lesson? Contrary to fears in some circles, HBO Now "doesn't cannibalize anything on the (TV) network," says CEO Richard Plepler. "It simply expands the audience's opportunity to watch our programs. It's all about expanding the pie."


Pie, eh? Get ready to dig in this Sunday, June 26 for the Season 6 finale, Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter." It's not clear why HBO shared those numbers now, instead of waiting for after the full season when the average would potentially increase, thanks to the epic Episode 9 and highly anticipated supersized finale, which will be the longest episode to date. Next, we hope HBO shares official information on Season 7, which is just about ready to start filming, and is rumored to have only seven episodes.

And what do we say to more HBO Now crashes? Not today!

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Game of Thrones
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