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April 01, 2013 at 05:35 PM EDT

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

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

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

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10. Sophie Turner on fans bashing Sansa

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7. Peter Dinklage on Tyrion’s season 3 survival

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

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

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

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin’s novels.
type
TV Show
seasons
7
Genre
run date
04/17/11
Network
Available For Streaming On
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