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'Game of Thrones' draws 7.1 million viewers for blood-filled finale

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The blood-filled finale of the fourth season of HBO's fantasy series "Game of Thrones" was watched by 7.1 million viewers, the network said on Monday, topping the 5.4 million people who watched last season's closing episode.

The Sunday episode of "Game of Thrones," titled "The Children," concluded with many of the show's leading characters making pivotal decisions that will set their path for next season while a crucial few met their demise.

HBO said a gross audience of 9.3 million viewers watched the episode across live and replayed airings. The Time Warner Inc-owned premium cable network has not yet released the total viewership, which includes video on demand and mobile streaming.

The show has surpassed "The Sopranos" to become HBO's most popular series ever, and 6.6 million viewers tuned into the season four premiere. The average gross audience watching the show across all platforms, including delayed viewing, has been 18.6 million per episode this season.

"Game of Thrones" is a medieval fantasy epic based on the best-selling books by writer George R.R. Martin about fictional families fighting for control of a mythical land, Westeros.

The show, which first aired in 2011, stars Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams, and is sold to more than 200 markets outside the United States.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Diane Craft)

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