Barely Anyone Watches “Game of Thrones,” And That’s A Good Thing

The Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere was watched by 17.4 million people. That’s an all-time high for HBO, and a fresh annual high for TV in 2019, edging out the 14.1 million people who tuned in for a February episode of The Big Bang Theory. Streamers and on-demand viewers will continue to raise those viewership numbers over time, but what’s really remarkable is how many people didn’t watch it.


There are around 330 million Americans. Of HBO’s 134 million-ish subscribers, about 54 million are in the US. Line up a dozen strangers and odds are that two subscribe to HBO and only one of them watched the premiere (we’ll round generously). Tell a fan that 5 out of 6 people shoulder-shrug-emoji’d their way through Sunday night and watch their reaction. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Their reaction is important to what comes next. 


Kevin Kelly popularized the idea that we only really need 1000 true fans to be successful. His point was that nobody should set out to make something for everyone. Instead, all we need is to be popular enough to be profitable enough (to earn a living, keep our employees, etc.). The more profitable the product or service, the smaller the audience required. Kelly’s first step is to create something special enough to attract some fans.


Thinking about value propositions and mission statements always remind me of the 1000 true fan idea.  GoT feels like a big deal, but it really was only made for a few people. Most people won’t care, and that’s perfectly fine. For the few who do, it’s the biggest deal – and that’s why it’s successful. It’s empowering when we realize how few people our own values and mission statements need to directly apply to for us to have a functional business. We don’t need 17.4 million people or even 2 in 12, we just need to find our people – the ones who respond to whatever Jon Snow or Sheldon Cooper of a product we can come up with.


Our job is to make or do something that really connects with our clients. It should be popular enough to be profitable enough to keep us in business. It has to make people happy it exists. We shouldn’t focus on the many who won’t and don’t care, and we should focus a lot on the few who do. Our job is to make their experience feel special.


The true fans are out there just waiting to be converted. Dragons optional.

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