The importance of Game of Thrones – in numbers

HBO's wildly popular show injected £26.3 million into the Northerrn Irish economy last year alone...

The importance of Game of Thrones – in numbers

Game of Thrones' iconic Dark Hedges, near Armoy, Co Antrim. Photo by: Tourism Ireland

As Game of Thrones returns to small screens the world over for its sixth (and most expensive) season, here are a few of the (extremely large) figures that illustrate the magnitude and mass appeal of the TV adaptation of George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice.

Kicking off with what it means for this island, Northern Ireland Screen estimates that season five alone brought a sizeable £26.3 million into the Northern Irish economy.

The agency itself has pumped £14.45m into the show, but reports that Tyrion, Hodor and the rest of the cheery crew have raised £115m for the Northern Irish economy overall since the region became one of its primary shooting locations way back with the pilot episode. And that's just productions costs.

The boon for tourism cannot be played down either. Fans from Shanghai to San Francisco (travelling westwards, obviously) have flocked to Ulster to catch some of the North's windswept grandeur for themselves.

Cairncastle and the Cushendun Caves are just two of the focal points of activity, with Northern Ireland Screen even rolling out an interactive Game of Thrones filming locations app to help with navigation in March.

Robert Boake, Northern Ireland location manager for Game of Thrones, told the Independent that when the show is filming during the summer months, the crew have to turn away as many as seven busloads of tourists every single day.

In December 2014, Tourism Ireland reported that the show had generated £8.6m in publicity for Northern Ireland that year.

The organisation's global 11-week campaign cost a mere £200,000 in comparison but garnered 100 million hits online.

Tourism Ireland

They forecast that the knock-on effect would boast overseas visitor numbers to over two million tourists annually by this year, bringing in over £550m for the local economy.

Tourism Ireland’s 2015 campaign generated £9.5m worth of coverage, with video content receiving over 4 million views on Facebook.

By the end of 2015, Northern Ireland had welcomed 1.9 million overseas visitors, delivering revenue of about £454m.

A staggering amount, until you consider that audience size.

Despite being arguably grimmer and more intense than ever before last year, season five also found GoT more popular than ever.

It attracted approximately 19.8 million HBO viewers per episode, taking into account premieres, on-demand, repeats, DVR, HBO Go and HBO Now. The finale received 8.11 million viewers; an all-time high for the show.

Over this side of the Atlantic, season five set a rating record straight out of the traps. The premiere delivered a record audience for Sky Atlantic with 1.57 million viewers, enjoying a 6.7% audience shared. Some 1.3 million stuck around long enough to see the shocking finale (no spoilers).

And that was just the people good enough to pay for it. Game of Thrones has been the most-pirated show in the world for four years running, beating the likes of The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory in 2015.

With such demand, producers has been able to negotiate a bigger budget this year. Traditionally, each episode would cost roughly $6m to produce, with the legendary 'Blackwater' battle pushing that season two episode up to $8m.

This year, they've secured around $10m per episode. It means they have $100m to play around with for season six.

No wonder they're promising their biggest-ever battle scene. If it happens to take place in the North (always a good place for a Westeros-based argy-bargy), Northern Ireland Screen and Tourism Ireland will be over the moon...


Tourism Ireland

Correction: a previous version of this article made an inaccurate link to piracy and BitTorrent. The company has confirmed that the content referred to is not hosted on or promoted by BitTorrent.