‘Game of Thrones’ premiere sets a viewership record for HBO

HBO said 17.4 million people watched the first episode of the final season of the ‘Game of Thrones’ saga. (HBO via AP)
Updated 17 April 2019

‘Game of Thrones’ premiere sets a viewership record for HBO

  • The Nielsen company said 17.4 million people watched the Sunday opener to the show’s final season
  • The numbers are likely to keep going up; HBO estimates that 32.8 million people watched each episode of the show last season

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 on May 19.
Nielsen said that 11.8 million people watched the season premiere traditionally, meaning when it first aired on the network at 9 p.m.
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.
Tiger Woods’ stirring comeback in the Masters gave CBS its biggest audience for that marquee golf tournament in six years, Nielsen said. Sunday’s final round, which was moved up several hours due to the threat of bad weather in Georgia, averaged 10.8 million viewers. The broadcast’s peak came when Woods won shortly after 2 p.m. ET, with 18.3 million viewers.


US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

Updated 12 July 2020

US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

  • According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists are facing the possibility that their visas may not be renewed
  • The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities

DUBAI: The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) might not renew visas for foreign journalists working at Voice of America (VOA).
The decision comes after Michael Pack joined USAGM as CEO last month, and fired the heads of four organizations: Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund. 
According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists working for the organization in Washington are facing the possibility that their visas, many of which expire this month, may not be renewed.
A VOA journalist, who asked not to be named, said it could lead to the departure of more than 100 staffers in the foreign language services, reported National Public Radio (NPR). 
The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities. Currently, there are 62 contractors and 14 full time employees at USAGM who are in the US on Exchange Visitor (J-1) visas. There are 15 categories under the J-1 visa, which is essentially a non-immigrant entry permit for individuals with skills who are approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. It is worth noting that the J-1 is among the visas that were banned by the administration of President Donald Trump in response to the coronavirus disease pandemic, with the administration suggesting holders take jobs away from US citizens.
A USAGM spokesperson told VOA that the agency was conducting a case-by-case assessment of J-1 renewal applications, and so far none of the journalists seeking J-1 extensions appears to have been rejected outright. The spokesperson added said the visa review is aimed at improving agency management, protecting US national security and ensuring that hiring authorities are not misused.
Media organizations have spoken out against the news. “This reported decision puts the lives of intrepid, free-thinking foreign journalists at risk. Many of these journalists have worked with VOA precisely because it offers them the opportunity to report stories that they cannot tell in their home countries without risk of severe punishment,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. 
“If these journalists are forced to return home, some of them will be greeted with jail cells or worse. It is appalling that the VOA’s new boss could be so reckless about the safety of journalists who have given their talents and insights to help the US inform the global public. These journalists deserve protection, not betrayal,”
The National Press Club, which represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide, also spoke out. “We know of no sensible reason to deny VOA’s foreign journalists renewed visas. These men and women provide an essential service to VOA by reporting from the US and telling the American story to their audiences overseas. They have the language skills and cultural background to perform this work. They are not taking jobs away from American workers,” said its president, Michael Freedman.
At the time of publication USAGM had not responded to Arab News’ request for comment.