When Sky Atlantic announced that it would be broadcasting the much-anticipated return of Game of Thrones in a simulcast with HBO in America, we imagined a hardcore handful of UK fans would watch at 2am on Sunday night while those of us with work the next day would catch up with the repeat showing in the usual slot of 9pm on Monday night.

But no, a staggering half a million viewers tuned into the subscription channel in the wee hours of Monday morning while 664,000 watched on Monday.

Most impressive of all, over 100,000 of the most dedicated Thrones fans saw both showings – which just goes to show that when you’ve waited a year for your favourite drama to return you want as much of it as you can get.

The figures also bode well for Sky Atlantic in terms of the rest of the series. The previous record overnight audience (before catch-up viewing is taken into account) for Game of Thrones was 784,000, for the season three finale. But even cancelling out those 105,000 viewers who watched the series four opener twice, it pulled in a combined audience of 997,000.

If the series finishes as strongly as the last one did – and if we get as many more of those "Red Wedding" style episodes as we've been promised – Game of Thrones could see its army of fans regularly numbering a million.

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