This was published two months ago but it’s worth revisiting its central thesis: That people will complain about a show yet continue to watch. In this case, the show in question in Game of Thrones. With the current sixth season of the show only a few episodes away from ending, let’s see if season 5 was enough to turn viewers off from the show.
Before we start comparing seasons, though, we should look at what data we’re dealing with: the TV ratings for each episode and the seasons as a whole.
Season 1: 2.22 (premiere), 2.20 (lowest rated), 2.44, 2.45, 2.58, 2.44, 2.40, 2.72, 2.66, 3.04 (finale)
Season 2: 3.86 (premiere), 3.76, 3.77, 3.65, 3.90, 3.88, 3.69, 3.86, 3.38 (lowest rated), 4.20 (finale)
Season 3: 4.37, (premiere) 4.27 (lowest rated), 4.72, 4.87, 5.35, 5.50 (highest rated), 4.84, 5.13, 5.22, 5.39 (finale)
Season 4: 6.64 (premiere), 6.31 (lowest rated), 6.59, 6.95, 7.16, 6.40, 7.20 (highest rated), 7.17, 6.95, 7.09 (finale)
Season 5: 8.00 (premiere), 6.81, 6.71, 6.82, 6.56, 6.24, 5.40 (lowest rated), 7.01, 7.14, 8.11 (finale)
Season 6: 7.94 (premiere), 7.29, 7.28, 7.82, 7.89, 6.71 (lowest rated), 7.80 (with 3 episodes yet to air)
We can see a few trend lines right away: Viewership tends to have increased from the first episode to the finale. Viewership also grows exponentially by the time of the next season (the jump to season 3 from season 2 only nets a .17 whereas the others are all above .82). While the premiere and finale episodes have higher ratings, viewers don’t really depart in mass droves throughout the season. Season 1’s audience is fairly consistent (the first two episodes are the ones with the lowest ratings) and the other good seasons never drop by more than half a million (0.5).
Season 5 has some of the highest ratings yet but viewership does crash throughout. Despite never having ratings drop by more than half a point at any time throughout the first four seasons, season 5’s 2nd episode falls off by almost 1.20 points! The 5.40 rating for season 5’s episode 7 is the lowest the show did since season 3! While the finale continued the trend of having a higher rating than the premiere, it was the lowest increase in the history of the show. To top this argument off, season 6’s premiere was the first in show history to actually lose viewers from a previous season!
So the logic that “people will complain yet continue to watch” is complete bunk. If a show’s as terrible as season 5 Game of Thrones, viewers won’t even stick around to complain…they’ll just stop watching entirely.
Now, Maisie’s right in that people have continued to watch the show. Aside from the premiere, Season 6’s ratings are a pretty considerable jump over season 5’s. With three episodes left to air, it’s quite possible the show could jump back into the 8’s. However, based on the above data, the show should already be performing in the 8’s and possibly the 9’s.
Look at the average in ratings for each season: Season 1 (2.52), Season 2 (3.80), Season 3 (4.97), Season 4 (6.85), Season 5 (6.88), Season 6 (7.49). Ratings jump substantially until season 5, which grinds everything to a halt. Hell, season 5’s average is thrown out of proportion by the premiere and finale episodes. Take those out and season 5 averages 6.59, a lower number than season 4’s (6.84) if the same standard is applied.
So, it doesn’t look like season 5 was awful enough to keep people away from the show. It was terrible enough to severely cut into the show’s growth and quite a chunk of the audience did quit watching for a substantial period of time. As for why people are still watching, there’s a myriad of reasons: The plot’s actually moving, curiosity from book readers to see where plots could be headed, etc. I only keep up through the Internet to see what all is going to happen but watching it via HBO is a step too far. In essence, I’m complaining about a show I used to watch but don’t anymore.