While Game of Thrones fans gasped, cringed and took to Twitter and Facebook to share in the aftermath of the “Red Wedding” at the conclusion of the “Rains of Castamere” episode on June 2, HBO rejoiced in the unprecedented social media activity that the show generated—especially as the season’s penultimate episode—which, according to Trendrr, was up 107% over season two’s comparable episode with 396,000 interactions.
Note: If you haven’t seen “Rains of Castamere,” this blog contains spoilers.
After the bloodshed in the episode, in which three key characters are murdered unceremoniously during a wedding reception, fans-including celebrities-flooded Twitter with cries of despair:
“I’ve only gone to a therapist once but I’m thinking about seeing one three times a week after tonight’s #GameofThrones”
@ikebarinholtz, Ike Barinholtz, The Mindy Project
Oh my god!!! That was so brutal and upsetting!! #gameofthrones
@Krystenritter, Krysten Ritter, ABC’s Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23
Hey, #GameofThrones, you win. You now have more of an impact on my emotional well being than anything else in life. #imnotokayrightnow
@ZacharyLevi, actor Zachary Levi
Tonight’s Game of Thrones was the most upsetting hour of TV I’ve ever seen.
@joshgad, Josh Gad, NBC’s 1600 Penn
“Game of Thrones. A+
@zachbraff, actor Zach Braff
OK…mostly despair. But regardless of the content of the tweets, it was clear the content of the show had an impact on more than the viewers’ emotions. In fact, fans of the novels written by George R.R. Martin, who serves as an executive producer on HBO’s Game of Thrones, recorded their friends and family’s reactions to the scene (as they were aware of the characters’ demise) on YouTube.
The reactions were so well-received (that video alone has over eight million viewers at presstime) that Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on the series, uploaded her own “reaction” to Vine, the mobile video app:
And when Martin appeared on TBS’ late-night talk show Conan on June 5, Conan O’Brien treated him to the video of fan reactions on YouTube.
Mark Ghuneim, CEO of Trendrr, which analyzes real-time social data, told B&C that the episode “was like a field goal. The second the scene happened, it was like 6,000 tweets a minute.”
Viewership of the episode fell short of its record high with 5.22 million viewers tuning in, about a 5% drop from the 5.5 million that watched the May 5 episode “The Climb.” With all the media coverage following “Rains of Castamere,” one would expect a record-breaking season finale.
But despite last week’s explosion, the season finale on June 9 saw neither a surge of viewership nor social media activity, though on social, it did remain at a high—more than double its average over the season.
Trendrr reported that second-screen activity for the finale dipped 12% to a total 347,000, but Game of Thrones‘ daily activity since “Rains of Castamere” has been tracking three times above its average.
“Myhsa” drew 5.4 million viewers, up 4% over “Rains of Castamere,” but just shy of record-setter “The Climb”; the episode, however, jumped 29% over the second-season finale.
Because HBO is a premium cable channel and there are no advertisements, activity on social media tracks differently than broadcast shows, Ghuneim said. For Game of Thrones, there are spikes at the beginning of the episode, but chatter quiets until the end—and the conversation continues until the next day, as demonstrated by the various media outlets that reported the tweeting frenzy.
“The narrative is so strong that the second-screen experiences are greater before and after, which is in opposition to traditional sporting and tentpole events, where people are active during,” Ghuneim said.
Although no ceilings shattered as a result of the social media activity following “Rains of Castamere,” Ghuneim maintained that there is no “better way to drive sub growth than natural world of mouth about programming that’s resonating to people.”
With social media sites usurping the water cooler, chatter on Twitter and Facebook is one of the best kinds of free advertising—considering, as Ghuneim said, that after June 2, “you’d have to be under a rock to not know about Game of Thrones.”