2018's Most-Watched On-Demand Show Didn't Air A Single New Episode This Year

by Ani Bundel

If it's December, then it's time for the year-end roundups to begin. This is the time when everyone starts crunching the numbers and putting out lists of the most listened to songs on Spotify for the year, the most watched viral videos on YouTube, the most retweeted posts on Twitter, the most pirated series on Torrent. But perhaps the most startling No. 1 out this week comes from the world of cable television. It turns out, despite not having aired a single episode this year, Game Of Thrones is 2018's most-watched on-demand show.

Are fans really watching the show over and over while waiting for the final season to arrive? This is possible, but not likely to account for how the show got so many repeated viewings. It also doesn't explain how the series beat out highly-rated new broadcast shows in the middle of airing new episodes, such as NBC's This is Us or ABC's The Good Doctor.

There have to be new people checking out the show during the year-long lull to land the sorts of numbers required to beat out broadcast shows of this nature. Either they are tuning in to see what the fuss is about, or perhaps to join in ahead of the highly-anticipated final season next year.

Speaking to USA Today, Brynn Lev, the VP of editorial and programming at Comcast Cable, said the following about Game of Thrones' reign over the on-demand world:

The fact that that show is still ranked No. 1 across the board when it wasn't even current is pretty incredible. It shows just how large of a following that show has (and) how new people are still discovering it.

Another note for those who might pooh-pooh this as merely cable viewing: According to Lev, Comcast's on-demand usage rose more than 10 percent this year. This is due to streaming services causing more viewers to think about their entertainment as something that fits their schedule, and not the other way around.

What I am curious to see is to see if the on-demand numbers for Game of Thrones have finally reached a point where viewers are watching it legally instead of pirating it, as has been the case throughout the show's history. The series has held the title of "Most Pirated Series" since 2012, according to TorrentFreak. In 2017, the show was pirated over a billion times, both from those watching episodes to catch up as well as to watch Season 7.

HBO has been fighting a slow battle to make the show more accessible to cord-cutters, introducing HBONow on the back of Game of Thrones' release in 2015. In 2016, it seemed like having a legal way to watch the show was making inroads. It will be interesting, with no new episodes released this year and on-demand viewership at an all-time high, if this will be enough for Game of Thrones to pass the pirate crown to someone else.

Of course, all bets are off again once 2019 arrives. The final episodes are due to air on HBO in April.