Winter is Coming

Game of Thrones rules engagement even when off air


By   |   April 18th, 2019   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Brands, Communications & PR, Digital Journalism

Social Media, Social Media analytics

In the past three years, Game of Thrones has been in the top five most viewed shows on television every year except 2018, when there was no season. Despite this, GoT has still seen the most consistent engagements of any TV show outside of viral moments.

In the world of television, Game of Thrones is king. If it feels like GoT has been in the news for years awaiting the final season, it’s because it has. Fans of the show were left hanging back in August 2017 and have waited expectantly for nearly two years to see the finale. But even in its absence, GoT wasn’t far from the minds of its fans and coverage seemed relentless to those that don’t watch.

GoT has become ingrained culture, it’s superseded typical boundaries for a show, somehow appealing to those who love fantasy and those who don’t alike, and its influence is felt around the world. In an age where you can watch anything and stream whenever it’s convenient, GoT created something bigger. A record-breaking 17.4 million people tuned in live (that’s not even counting all global streams) to watch the season 8 premiere at the same time, collectively embracing this story coming to a close. We’ve witnessed the rise of GoT as a global phenomenon, but has engagement been as high as it feels?

Back in 2016, the top ten most watched TV shows according to Business Insider were as follows:

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Pretty Little Liars
  4. Westworld
  5. The Flash
  6. Big Bang Theory
  7. The OA
  8. Stranger Things
  9. Running Man
  10. Suits

Game of Thrones vs. Top Ten TV Shows in 2016

The only time GoT was passed in engagements was a shocking episode of The Walking Dead, which drove more engagements to web content than any other TV moment of that year.

Game of Thrones vs. The Walking Dead Engagements in 2016

Taking a look at just the top two most popular shows of 2016, we can observe the rises and falls of GoT, but the level of engagement remains consistent around 500k heading into 2017. The Walking Dead has a few spikes, but still doesn’t consistently perform at the same level outside of its viral moment.

In 2017, the most popular TV Shows ranked by Business Insider (for consistency) were:

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Pretty Little Liars
  4. Vikings
  5. Prison Break
  6. The Big Bang Theory
  7. The Flash
  8. Stranger Things
  9. Grey’s Anatomy
  10. Suits

Game of Thrones vs. Top Ten TV Shows in 2017

While the top ten didn’t veer too much from 2016’s list, 2017 was the last time we saw our favorite characters in GoT before the premiere last weekend. The season 7 finale drove over 7 million engagements and pulled in 16.5 million viewers. Though Stranger Things was the eighth most viewed show in 2017, it was second in engagements, beating out even The Walking Dead.

Game of Thrones vs. The Walking Dead and Stranger Things in 2017 

Stranger Things was riding a high from its debut in 2016 and spiked again when season 2 premiered October of 2017. The Walking Dead held onto its number two spot, but engagements were down significantly from the previous year.

Finally, the last full year we’ll cover: 2018’s Top TV Shows from Business Insider:

  1. Roseanne
  2. The Big Bang Theory
  3. NCIS
  4. This is Us
  5. Young Sheldon
  6. Manifest
  7. The Good Doctor
  8. America’s Got Talent
  9. Bull

Game of Thrones vs. Top Nine TV Shows in 2018

2018 saw The Walking Dead fall out of the top ten completely and witnessed the rise and fall of Roseanne Barr. After the actress was dropped from her own show for racist tweets, the story exploded, racking up an incredible 13 million engagements between May 28th and June 3rd. CNN’s coverage took the top spot with 800k engagements alone, not even Game of Thrones could come close to that.

What’s worth noting though, is how GoT manages to outperform the rest of the year’s top shows despite not even being on television. The only other spike (in yellow) was The Big Bang Theory’s announcement that the series would end after 12 seasons in 2019.

Game of Thrones vs. Top Nine TV Shows in 2018 (excluding Roseanne coverage)

When you take out coverage of Roseanne, shattering records doesn’t even begin to cover GoT’s success. Again, this is coverage of GoT during its year off air. It’s setting the bar so high, even HBO’s other shows can’t keep up. Westworld, Big Little Lies, True Detective and The Brink are ranked immediately after Game of Thrones in terms of viewership, but even during these shows’ 2018 year, GoT dominated the news.

Game of Thrones vs. Top Five HBO Shows in the Past Year

For the past three years, GoT’s engagement has outperformed every major TV show, no matter the network. Brands and publishers that have played into the GoT fandom are rewarded with retweets and engagements. LADbible and Buzzfeed took four of the top ten most engaged articles about GoT in 2018, generating half a million and 300k engagements respectively, from those stories alone.

The top story of 2018 comes from HBO itself, announcing the conclusion of the show. In the last 365 days, coverage of GoT was just ramping up. For the next 6 weeks at the very least, coverage is only going to increase and regardless of how the series ends, there will be indignation and engagement et al until people accept how the story comes to a close. Winter isn’t coming, friends, it’s here and it’s smashing it. Don’t expect coverage or engagement to slow down anytime soon. We can only stand by and wait to see if HBO can produce another series with this kind of world-wide draw and if not, just enjoy it while it lasts.

If you’re interested in monitoring engagements or conducting your own research, check out NewsWhip Analytics.

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