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Game of Thrones Season 7 Premieres Sunday: How Will You Be Watching?

July 14, 2017
Who will sit on the Iron Throne? That’s the question as we approach the long-awaited season premiere of one of television’s most watched series, Game of Thrones.

According to Nielsen estimates, last year’s Game of Thrones season premiere drew almost 11 million viewers across three linear telecasts and streaming on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

With numbers like this, the question is not whether people will watch this season’s premiere on Sunday, but rather, how?

Is Mobile the New King?

You may have heard that the television is dead and that smaller-screen viewing is taking over. Well, that’s not completely true.

During the fourth quarter of 2016, 92% of all viewing among U.S. adults (18+) occurred on a television screen, according to Nielsen’s Comparable Metrics Report. This number includes viewing on TV-connected devices, such as Apple TV or Roku.

What this tells us is that, even with all the options viewers have in today’s world, the large majority would still prefer to watch their favorite show the same way they have for years, in front of a television set. Particularly for an in-demand season premiere, an awards show or a major sporting event.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant shift happening in viewer behavior – according to its last quarterly report, Netflix has more streaming subscribers (50.85 million) than the largest cable companies have customers (48.61 million).  It just means that it’s premature to declare that TV is dead.  Those who are most successful in this environment will be the content creators who meet consumers where they are – in front of their TVs and on their phones. That’s the power of an OTT network, and that was our aim in launching Monumental Sports Network.

The State of Traditional TV

We’ve determined that the television itself is far from dead, but what about TV as we know it? I’m talking about traditional television, in this case live programming vs. the growing trend of time-shifted viewing.

This is where the changes are more drastic, especially among younger Millennials and Gen Z.

According to an analysis of Nielsen’s most recent “Total Audience Report,” in the span of five years (2011-2016), traditional TV viewing among 18- to 24-year-olds dropped almost 10 hours per week, or 1 hour and 25 minutes per day. This means that almost 40% of the time this age group used to spend watching traditional TV just five years ago has now shifted to other activities or over-the-top streaming (OTT).

At first glance, these numbers may appear to suggest OTT services, such as Netflix or HBO GO, are replacing traditional TV, but “complementing” may be a better word.

Based on a survey of 53,000 internet users in North America and Europe, those who subscribed to both traditional pay TV and OTT services increased from 26% in the first quarter of 2016 to 39% in the first quarter of 2017, thus getting access to the best of both.

This suggests that while viewers are spending less time viewing traditional TV, the majority are not ready to cut the cord completely. 

Live sporting events continue to drive TV viewership and cable subscriptions. It’s nearly impossible to record your favorite game and watch it later – social media will be feeding you constant updates. Plus, there is a level of excitement and anticipation and feeling of community while watching the action unfold live, and the added benefit of a second screen to engage even deeper with the game you are watching. 

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, along with NBC Sports Group, has invested in our own OTT platform, Monumental Sports Network. CSN Mid-Atlantic is our regional rights holder for the Wizards and Capitals, but we also own the WNBA’s Mystics and the AFL’s Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade. We need an outlet for those sports as well as others that are of interest to our subscribers, such as AHL and ECHL hockey games, esports, the Pro Grid League and local high school games. We carry live games and on-demand viewing of original shows and exclusive interviews. It’s a partnership and balance to meet varied and changing viewing interests and habits.  

What Does This All Mean?

Not surprisingly, what this data tells us is that people like choice and customization, and they are willing to pay for both.  

Even with all of this choice, however, shows with loyal followings, like Game of Thrones, are still able to draw impressive live-viewing audiences – for last season’s Game of Thrones premiere, almost 8 million of the 11 million who watched the premiere, tuned into the 9 p.m. premiere telecast.

So, with all the options out there, how will you follow Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Stormborn this season?