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"Game of Thrones" season 8 premiere sets viewership record for HBO

Millions tune in for "Game of Thrones"

New York — 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.

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 May 19.

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

"60 Minutes" goes behind the scenes on "Game of Thrones"

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.

"Game of Thrones" behind the scenes: Emilia Clark on filming a flying dragon

Anderson Cooper interviewed the cast of "Game of Thrones" for the April 14 edition of "60 Minutes." He got behind-the-scenes details from stars Lena Headey on playing an evil character who blows up the Great Sept and Emilia Clarke on what it's like to ride mechanical dragons.

"There was like a pole on either end. And it's essentially like the dudes on the railway who 'eh eh,'" Clarke told Cooper of her character Daenerys Targaryen. "And I'm there, kinda trying to, like, yes, this is badass. And everyone's like, it doesn't look badass. You look like Harry Potter. You look like you're on a broomstick. And people are just kinda looking around, being like, it looks kinda weird."

Headey recalled the scene in season seven where her character Cersei Lannister gave the order to destroy the Sept: "Yeah, but come on. They deserved it," she laughed.

Lena Headey talks about Cersei blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor