Lord of the Ratings

game of thrones
Discovery says that 9.986 million people watched the premiere of House of the Dragon. Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO
Julia Alexander
September 6, 2022

Amazon’s long-anticipated, zillion-dollars-an-episode foray into the I.P. big leagues formally commenced on Friday with the premiere of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The series, which received strong reviews and enjoyed its own veritable Prime Day-style marketing blitz (including ads on the retail site), secured 25 million viewers within its first 24 hours, according to Amazon. This also marks the first major viewership announcement Amazon has released for one of its original titles. (It’s easy to see why.)

At first blush, these numbers seem pretty extraordinary. That 25 million figure represented 2.5x the number of viewers that tuned in for HBO’s House of the Dragon premiere, according to HBO’s own self-reported ratings boast just two weeks earlier. Streaming isn’t zero sum, but the comparisons were irresistible, and incredibly favorable for Amazon: In the great game of shows, Rings of Power was all but appointed the victor. 

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: both shows have been major successes. Both have strong reviews, both are bringing in a healthy number of viewers, and both are dominating conversations. Netflix co-C.E.O. Ted Sarandos once spoke about the importance of Squid Game inspiring a Saturday Night Live sketch because it validated that the South Korean hit had become part of the zeitgeist. Both The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon have already etched their place in the culture in short order.