Overnight ratings for Sunday’s Westworld finale are in, and they are not amazing: It scored 1.56 million viewers in the Nielsen ratings. Compared to last season, they’re down a little more than 20 percent in both overall viewers and the 18-49 demo. However, where it concerns an HBO series, overnight rights are even more meaningless than a typical cable series. People who watch Westworld live through their cable boxes represent a small fraction of the overall viewership for the show.
Once DVR viewership over three days is accounted for, the Westworld finale ratings will jump to somewhere between 2.5 and 3 million viewers, but while the Live+3 ratings might matter a lot for a show on AMC like The Walking Dead, they don’t tell the whole story with Westworld, because there are so many more viewers who watch the series on HBO Go or HBO now or On Demand or HBO replays. In fact, all told, ratings for Westworld nearly triple once all the platforms are accounted for — on average, around 10 million viewers watched the show this season.
Ten million viewers is solid, although it’s a drop in the bucket compared to overall viewership for the seventh season of Game of Thrones, which was seen by around 30 million viewers a week. That is more than Friends averaged during its highest-rated season. More concerning for Westworld, however, is that while viewership for Game of Thrones has risen every since since its inception, Wesworld ratings are actually down from its first season, when it averaged about 12 million viewers.
Ratings erosion after one season is obviously not ideal, and the downward trajectory mirrors a show like, Mr. Robot, which also began to suffer major declines in subsequent seasons as the storylines got more complicated and confusing. Ratings for season two reflect the fact that most viewers continued to stick around because they wanted to see if the season finale would clear up the confusion, but the reception that the finale received doesn’t exactly portend a growing audience in season three.
Still, 10 million viewers is pretty great, right? Compared to the highest rated cable series on television right now, The Walking Dead, it absolutely is! The Walking Dead has obviously suffered some major ratings erosion in recent years, losing nearly half its viewers over the last three seasons. However, it still holds a commanding lead over the competition. Nevertheless, even after 7 days of DVR viewership is accounted for on The Walking Dead, the eighth season averaged a little less than 12 million viewers a week, or equal to the ratings for Westworld in its freshman season. Westworld slumped some this season, but it’s still within the ballpark of The Walking Dead.
On the other hand, the 12 million viewers that watched The Walking Dead do not include those who watch it months later on streaming services like Netflix. Because Netflix doesn’t release ratings, we may never know just exactly how many more people watch The Walking Dead than Westworld. However, it’s safe to say that, until Game of Thrones returns, The Walking Dead and Westworld remain the most watched programs on cable.