Game of Thrones‘ final season swallowed the pop culture discussion (and is still doing so, weeks later) to such a degree that analysts predicted a significant exodus of HBO subscribers after the Iron Throne matter was settled. The premium cable channel, for its part, prepared to serve up many quality offerings (Barry and the return of Big Little Lies among them) onto the table as the finale approached and in the aftermath. And as it turns out, Craig Mazin‘s miniseries, Chernobyl, turned out to be quite a sleeper hit in the ratings.
The five-part TV event presented an unflinching dramatization of one of the worst man-made disasters — the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion in Ukraine, Soviet Union — and the resulting radioactive and political fallout. With an phenomenal leading cast (Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, and Emily Watson) involved, HBO timed this miniseries to launch at the ideal time (a few weeks before Thrones ended), which kept subscribers on the hook while word of mouth spread about the compelling and intense story, not to mention a take that the history books do not detail. Granted, the series didn’t receive the most optimal time slot, given that it aired on Mondays, but viewers were apparently committed to catching up, and they did so to a greater degree on digital platforms like HBO Go and HBO Now than Thrones viewers did.
This news is actually a pretty huge deal, since streaming is the present and future, and HBO’s proving itself capable of still being a contender in that landscape. Via Deadline:
When you break down the numbers of Chernobyl’s dedicated viewership, it’s 35% linear, 13% OD and a massive 52% from HBO Go, HBO Now and other OTT platforms. That last number is the Ace in hand for HBO and a record breaker too. No other HBO series has ever topped 50% in its digital contribution. As you would expect, the previous record holder was Game of Thrones, but that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss EP’d Emmy winning blockbuster never made it over 46%, even during its recent eighth and final seas.
So what are the cumulative viewing numbers on Chernobyl? Obviously, a 5-part miniseries can’t compare to eight Thrones seasons, but the historical drama has managed to snag 8 million viewers thus far. That doesn’t quite rise to the 8.5 million viewers for Big Little Lies‘ first season, but it’s close to toppling the 8.1 viewers for True Detective‘s third season and definitely tops 7.3 million viewers for Sharp Objects. Word is still spreading about Chernobyl, too. The series has already claimed the title of IMDB’s top-rated TV series of all time (above Breaking Bad and The Wire), and not even the spectre of Instagram tourism can dampen the flame of viewership right now.
Of course, there won’t be a second round of episodes, given that this was a miniseries, not a limited series that can be resurrected like Big Little Lies with a novella from the source material’s author. Yet Chernobyl‘s resonance proves that HBO’s still capable of building a content arsenal, even after the last dragon has flown away for good.