Everyone in the industry will have an opinion, but the cold hard numbers are hard to argue with – Foxtel’s broadcast of the first episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones was a phenomenal success – the most watched program in Foxtel’s history.

You’ve got to go back to the Rugby World Cup Semi Final between Australia and New Zealand in 2011 to find the next best audience – that game was watched by 719,000 viewers.

Game of Thrones premiere episode for Season 6 – 727,000, and not only is that a record for the platform, it’s 31% more than last year!

Understandably, Director of TV at Foxtel Brian Walsh was pretty happy: “This is an absolutely incredible result and beyond our expectations. It doesn’t yet include all of the catch-up viewing from the Foxtel iQ, which will count when we calculate the cumulative audience for the week. When you include those figures, as well as encores across the week, we’re forecasting the first episode will absolutely top over 1 million viewers, a phenomenal result by any measure!”

So, what about all that privacy then? All those folks who would never pay for Foxtel and will just download illegally!!

Torrent blog TorrentFreak says that in the first half day since the episode aired in the US (and someone recorded it and put it on their computer for all to share) over 1,000,000 people downloaded the episode.

Australia topped the list with 12.5% of the downloads, meaning a less than overwhelming 125,000 chose the illegal option, and there’s no actual data on what was viewed – plenty (and let me tell you that’s 50,000 plus) would operate torrent servers 24/7 at their homes that simply pickup and download all the “hot” content – so we couldn’t even try to label all 125,000 downloaders as viewers.

Surely this is a swing toward TV not away from it.  Foxtel making it available at the right time, not making people wait and putting it on at other times to get audience is all the right thing, and is an example to all rights holders – don’t hold back, if you own it, let people see it – they will pay.

As for the surge in streaming, Netflix, Stan & even Foxtel’s own Presto would LOVE to have numbers anywhere near that for a single program let alone a single episode.

Oh, and for those that simply hate on Foxtel and think all content should be free and streamable at all hours at the same second its broadcast in the USA – all these numbers do is serve to support the theory that if you buy (and protect) the rights, people will come – just ask Brian Walsh:)

I’ve never seen it, but Foxtel tell me that Game of Thrones season 6 screens Mondays at 11am AEST (same time as the US) with a primetime encore at 7.30pm AEST, only on showcase.