This image released by HBO shows Emilia Clarke, left, and Kit Harington in a scene from “Game of Thrones,” premiering on Sunday, April 14. The first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones” is a record-breaker for the series and HBO. The pay channel said the 17.4 million viewers who watched Sunday episode either on TV or online represent a season-opening high for the fantasy saga. (HBO via AP)

‘Game of Thrones’ premiere sets a viewership record for HBO

Season premiere most-watched one-day event in the history of the cable network that began in 1978

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” lived up to the hype. This past weekend’s season premiere stands as the most-watched one-day event in the history of the cable network that began in 1978.

The Nielsen company said 17.4 million people watched the Sunday opener to the show’s final season, either live on the network at 9 p.m., streamed, through HBO’s on-demand service or during two reruns that aired later that night. Nielsen can’t account for people who watched more than once.

READ MORE: HBO looks beyond ‘Game of Thrones,’ maybe back to a prequel

HBO’s previous high-water mark was last season’s finale of “Game of Thrones,” making it likely that this new HBO record will be eclipsed when the series ends on May 19.

Nielsen said that 11.8 million people watched the season premiere traditionally, meaning when it first aired on the network at 9 p.m.

The numbers are likely to keep going up; HBO estimates that 32.8 million people watched each episode of the show last season. That includes people who watched weeks after it first aired and repeat viewers.

Viewership for the show is more impressive when you consider that HBO is a service that people have to specifically pay for. It is available in around 35 million households in the United States, or roughly a third of the number of homes that can see CBS, NBC and ABC.

Tiger Woods’ stirring comeback in the Masters gave CBS its biggest audience for that marquee golf tournament in six years, Nielsen said. Sunday’s final round, which was moved up several hours due to the threat of bad weather in Georgia, averaged 10.8 million viewers. The broadcast’s peak came when Woods won shortly after 2 p.m. ET, with 18.3 million viewers.

CBS easily won the week in prime-time, averaging 7.1 million viewers. ABC had 4.5 million viewers, NBC had 3.7 million, Fox had 2.3 million, Univision had 1.3 million, ION Television had 1.2 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 700,000.

Fox News Channel was the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 2.38 million viewers in prime time. MSNBC had 1.56 million, HGTV had 1.182 million, USA had 1.177 million and TNT had 1.11 million.

ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.9 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” was second with 7.5 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.5 million viewers.

For the week of April 8-14, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Virginia vs. Texas Tech, CBS, 19.72 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 11.82 million; “Game of Thrones,” HBO, 11.76 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 8.72 million; “The Code,” CBS, 8.14 million; “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 8.09 million; “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 7.62 million; “Survivor,” CBS, 7.6 million; “NCAA Basketball Pre-Game Show,” CBS, 7.47 million; “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 7.32 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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Online:

http://www.nielsen.com

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” lived up to the hype. This past weekend’s season premiere stands as the most-watched one-day event in the history of the cable network that began in 1978.

The Nielsen company said 17.4 million people watched the Sunday opener to the show’s final season, either live on the network at 9 p.m., streamed, through HBO’s on-demand service or during two reruns that aired later that night.

There’s a good chance that number will be eclipsed next month when the series signs off for good.

Meanwhile, CBS had its biggest audience for the Masters in six years with Tiger Woods’ stirring comeback.

David Bauder, The Associated Press

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