HBO's Game Of Thrones returned to Sky Atlantic last night, where it attracting 522,000 viewers (peaking at 633,000) in the 9pm hour. To put that in perspective, the first season averaged 365,000.
However, season 2 premiere "The North Remembers" was noticeably down on the 743,000 figure for GoT's very first episode in 2011, suggesting it may have lost approximately 200,000 viewers since then. It'll be interesting to see if season 2 continues to shed viewers, or if the fantasy drama's natural audience number will stabilise around 500,000.
Still, GoT's premiere far outstripped Sky Atlantic's Mad Men from a week ago, which only appealed to a paltry 98,000 viewers—despite far more extensive promotion than GoT received this year. Hardly surprising, I know. The general public are just more interested in big-budget fantasy than character-based '60s drama.
Both show's ratings would undoubtedly be helped if Sky made Atlantic available to the millions of Virgin Media subscribers still angry it's a Sky-exclusive channel. But let's not start that argument again. I just think it's a shame some of America's most popular and beloved TV shows are tucked away on a niche channel. I guess the upside is they're treated brilliantly (lots of expensive promotion and repeats), but does any of that really matter if non-Sky subscribers just can't see any of it?