HBO's Game of Thrones Challenges Playoff Basketball for Ratings Supremacy

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Winter may be coming to Westeros, but it’s already summer at HBO.

The premium channel’s epic fantasy series adapted from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels is dominating the Sunday night cable wars, pummeling virtually every other scripted show in its timeslot and taking aim at NBA playoff series between major market franchises.

Last weekend, Game of Thrones drew 3.9 million viewers for the original airing of its fifth episode this season. That number left the HBO sophomore only 80,000 viewers shy of the Knicks/Heat and Magic/Pacers playoff contests on TNT. That feat is made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that HBO is a pay-channel with a much smaller user base than basic cabler TNT.

Sweetening the pot for HBO, Game of Thrones’ most powerful demographic viewers 18 to 49, the vaunted “marketing demo.”

For a preview of what’s to come in the Seven Kingdoms, check out this trailer for Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 6, airing Sunday, May 6: