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HBO confirmed the finale of popular series aired Sunday with a record-breaking 19.3 million viewers tuning in — despite repeated complaints about the eighth season. The series drew in millions of fans that signed up for HBO Now in order to gain access to the episodes over the last few years. HBO added roughly 50 million paid subscribers worldwide since the series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels debut in 2011, boosting overall revenue to $6.6 billion in 2018 even as other traditional cable networks struggled with the “cord-cutting” trend.
The end of “Game of Thrones” could now signal some problems for HBO. Mintel, a market research company, found that 20 percent of HBO Now subscribers said they would cancel the service if their favorite show ended.
“Considering the cultural phenomena ‘Game of Thrones’ has become, many consumers have subscribed to HBO’s OTT [over-the-top media] service in order to get access to the popular show,” Mintel analyst Buddy Lo wrote in a blog post.
Viewers were also more likely to sign on to other streaming services instead of paying for HBO Now’s $14.99 monthly subscription. Mintel’s research found that HBO Now was the fourth streaming service people were likely to sign up for compared to other services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
By late Sunday night, it didn’t look good for HBO Now subscriptions.
Google Trends showed that searches for “cancel HBO subscription” peaked at 11 p.m. Sunday — just two hours after the series finale was released on the East Coast. Several Twitter users also joked about canceling HBO Now to pay for other streaming services now that “Game of Thrones” was over.
It’s unclear exactly how many subscribers followed through with their actions and hit the “cancel” button. HBO still has several popular shows, including the new season of “Big Little Lies” and “Westworld," that may help keep viewers around.
The network also has “Game of Thrones”-themed spinoffs and a prequel in the works. The shows, however, will only lure back viewers if they live up to the hype. The negative reviews of Sunday’s series finale could also impact fans' desire to see more stories about Westeros.
“I'm sure there is definitely an appetite for additional Game of Thrones-related material, but if the execution isn't up to snuff, subscribers may cancel in favor of upcoming streaming services like Apple TV+ and Disney+,” Lo told Forbes on Sunday.
Fox Business' Tom Barrabi contributed to this report.