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'Game of Thrones' season 3 premiere ratings break records

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HBO’s Game of Thrones returned Sunday night to its most-watched episode ever.

The third season premiere delivered 4.4 million viewers for its premiere at 9 p.m. and racked up 6.7 million viewers for the evening after its two repeats were tallied. That’s up 13 percent from its first airing last year and represents a record for the show in both measurements.

Despite heavy publicity and a rabid fan base, odds were stacked against Thrones setting a record. TV viewership historically dips on Easter Sunday, and Thrones ran head-to-head for the first time with the heavily anticipated The Walking Dead finale, which has a demographically similar male-skewing audience (and also set a series record last night). Give that Thrones premiered against the wind, I suspect Thrones will beat these numbers a few times this season (and could it surpass True Blood as HBO’s most-watched show?).

How close was my Thrones ratings prediction yesterday? Nearly dead-on: I bet on 4.3 million at 9 p.m. and nailed the 6.7 million for the night. Though HBO has not announced a fourth season on Thrones, you will likely see a renewal within the next couple weeks. Renewed! Check out my recap of the Thrones season premiere here.

17 DAYS OF THRONES

17. ‘Game of Thrones’ producers Q&A: Why season 3 is the most epic yet

16. Lena Headey on Cersei’s season 3 fears

15. How Kit Harington conquered his injury to keep Jon Snow fighting

14: Gwendoline Christie on being ‘too pretty’ to play Brienne

13. John Bradley defends fantasy fans

12. HBO: ‘Thrones’ piracy is ‘a compliment’

11. ‘Game of Thrones’ producers on casting Mance Rayder, Lady Olenna

10. Sophie Turner on fans bashing Sansa

9. Jack Gleeson on Joffrey’s season 3 romance

8. Maisie Williams talks Arya’s season 3 adventures

7. Peter Dinklage on Tyrion’s season 3 survival

6. Richard Madden teases Robb Stark’s season 3

5. Emilia Clarke says Dany gets fast-paced season 3

4. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau talks Jaime’s season 3 struggle

3. Rose Leslie: You know nothing about Ygritte’s catchphrase

2. ‘Game of Thrones’ producers on season 3 dragons: They’re not cute anymore

1. EW Cover: ‘Game of Thrones’ wildest season yet! Jon + Dany, an ice and fire pairing