Dragons! It’s so “Game of Thrones.” (HBO)

Nope, HBO Go crashing wasn’t really a big deal for Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” at least in terms of ratings. About 6.6 million people tuned in for the fantasy epic’s fourth season premiere, an enormous number for a pay cable channel. (Combined with replays, that number spiked to 8.2 million).

[Related: ‘Game of Thrones’ recap: ‘The Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.’]

The premiere is HBO’s most-watched program since “The Sopranos” signed off in 2007 with nearly 12 million viewers. Before that, the “Sex and the City” finale in 2004 drew 10.6 million people. (Though HBO doesn’t release numbers, it reportedly has around 28 million subscribers, while Showtime has about 24 million.)

Looks like “Game of Thrones” is taking the “Breaking Bad” path to Prestige Cable Drama success: Building on word of mouth, ratings get stronger and stronger through the years. It’s a curious inverse to many successful broadcast dramas, which tend to lose viewers over time. Last season’s “GoT” averaged about 4 or 5 million viewers per first-run episode, up from the series debut with 2.2 million people back in 2011.

[Related: Season 4 of “Game of Thrones" review]

To put it in perspective, that’s lower than similarly hyped cable dramas over on AMC: “The Walking Dead” ended its latest season with about 16 million viewers last week. It’s about on par with the final season of “Breaking Bad,” which ended with about 6 million viewers per episode and more than 10 million for the series finale. And it blows “Mad Men” out of the water, as that show is lucky to see to see 3 million on any given week.

However, HBO can be celebrating its victory over pay cable competitor Showtime: So far, “Homeland’s” series high has been 2.4 million viewers with its Season 3 finale. And long-running “Dexter” signed off with just under 3 million.


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