‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 premiere hits ratings record despite piracy

Actress Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, appears in a scene from HBO's hit series "Game Of Thrones."
Actress Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, appears in a scene from HBO’s hit series “Game Of Thrones.”

Not even pirates could stop the “Game of Thrones” invasion.

Sunday’s Season 5 premiere of HBO’s fantasy epic hit record ratings, with 8 million total viewers for the 9 p.m. original airing, according to Nielsen.

That’s a 21% jump compared with last year’s Season 4 premiere. Sunday was also the most-watched original airing of “Game of Thrones” ever, marching past the 7.2-million mark achieved several times last season.

This despite news that the first four episodes of the season were leaked online in advance of the premiere. “Game of Thrones” is reportedly the most pirated TV series in the world, with 8 million illegal downloads on BitTorrent, a file-sharing service, in 2014. (Separately, Twitter’s personal video app Periscope scrambled to tamp down on users who tried to stream the episode live.) Viewers who watch programs illegally are not tabulated in estimates provided by Nielsen.


Perhaps most impressively, “GOT” continues to grow in popularity among young adults, who tend to be the first in and the first out as a TV series progresses. Among adults ages 18 to 49, Sunday’s season premiere achieved a 4.2 rating, the first time it has broken 4. That’s more than quadruple the young-adult audience the show was drawing its first season.

An HBO spokeswoman said the network had no comment. HBO recently stopped providing overnight numbers to the media because executives feel those numbers undercount their total audience.

What did you think of the “Game of Thrones” premiere?

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT