Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD 0.39%) has revealed that its new Game of Thrones prequel TV show, House of the Dragon, drew almost 10 million viewers across both HBO Max and HBO on linear cable on its Aug. 20 debut. The company says it was its biggest-ever single-night launch for an original show. Here's why that's not just good news for the business but also for Warner Bros. Discovery investors.

HBO subscribers have long been tied to the events of Westeros

Game of Thrones was extremely popular during its eight-season run. The HBO show regularly drew tens of millions of live and time-shifted viewers for each episode, and by its last season in the spring of 2019, Game of Thrones managed an average of 44.2 million viewers (live and delayed). Indeed, the TV show was so beloved it is ranked among the most watched of all time.

Considering such popularity, it was perhaps inevitable that HBO would experience a loss of subscribers when Game of Thrones wrapped up. According to some estimates, HBO Now (the precursor to HBO Max) saw a revenue drop of 16% in the period immediately after season 8 finished. And in 2020, some speculated that the lack of Game of Thrones content was linked to approximately half of HBO's 18- to 49-year-old demographic ending their linear HBO contracts.

Green lights ahead

Since the end of Game of Thrones, Warner Bros. Discovery has reportedly started work on half a dozen projects set in the same world. House of the Dragon is the first of those to launch, and its early success strengthens the likelihood that those other shows will make it through the development process and into full production. And the more Warner Bros. Discovery can give HBO Max and HBO linear subscribers what they want, the more likely they are to stick around.

Beyond a few announcements about upcoming shows, Warner Bros. Discovery has yet to discuss its release schedule for future Game of Thrones-related content. However, considering the subscriber drop-offs the company has seen, it's feasible Warner Bros. Discovery will want to shorten breaks between such launches to months, rather than years. A good example of this is how Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) handles the rollout of its franchise shows on Disney+.

A steady stream of connected content

The first Marvel show to appear on Disney+ was WandaVision, which debuted in January 2021, with episodes released on a weekly schedule. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier followed a couple of months later, again offering up installments on a week-by-week basis. Loki landed on the streaming service in June 2021.

Disney+ has maintained a regular release schedule of new Marvel shows, usually starting the next one just a few weeks after the conclusion of the previous series. The net effect of this strategy is customers are incentivized to maintain their Disney+ subscriptions because there's always another Marvel show just around the corner. And Disney has noted that each new show has helped to attract new customers, assisting the company in growing its overall subscriber base.

For Warner Bros. Discovery investors, the early reception to House of the Dragon is a sign the company is onto a good thing. If Warner Bros. Discovery can follow the Disney+ template and create multiple interconnected shows that release on a steady basis, then there is every chance it will see its subscriber numbers grow with each new offering. Of course, it should be noted the company has drawn criticism lately for axing projects before they see the light of day, so nothing is guaranteed.

For market watchers, it makes sense to follow the critical response to House of the Dragon as episodes continue to come out, as well as what Warner Bros. Discovery has to say about it. The company may not release any more viewing figures, but if the show is doing well, it could announce a season two renewal sooner rather than later. If that happens, then it's a likely indication that other Game of Thrones shows may not be too far behind.