BEIJING/LOS ANGELES – While “Game of Thrones” fans worldwide were laughing and howling their way through the premiere of the latest season, Chinese fans on Monday were left blasting the censored version that streamed online in the country.
The fantasy epic on HBO is famed for its X-rated content and gory battle scenes, both known to draw the ire of China’s censors.
Tech giant Tencent streamed the season premier simultaneously with HBO, letting China’s legions of netizens watch alongside their worldwide peers.
“I thought the censored version meant only cutting the bed scenes!!!” typed one enraged fan on China’s Twitter-like Weibo after watching.
“When I was watching I wasn’t even a little worried about my dad being there, even the fighting scenes are cut, with even those cut, why bother watching!”
The Chinese version came in at 48 minutes compared to the 54-minute original for audiences worldwide.
HBO’s website is blocked in China, forcing most to watch the approved-for-China version of the Emmy Award-winning television series — though some netizens find ways to get beyond the country’s “Great Firewall.”
“Tencent is making us pay to see a castrated version of ‘Game of Thrones,’” said another user, who identified herself as a 19-year-old girl.
“Do any sisters have Game of Throne links to share?” she tweeted.
“It is a bit uncomfortable watching the censored version,” tweeted another user with the handle Wang Bubble.
“If those scenes are not worth seeing, why would the writer write them? Why would the director shoot them? People who like ‘Game of Thrones’ don’t like it for the porn and violence but for the whole thing,” Wang said.
I “don’t want to miss even one second,” she added.
Meanwhile, some 17.4 million Americans watched as the final season kicked off — a record audience for the series, HBO said Monday.
HBO said Sunday’s live U.S. television audience and viewers on its HBO Go and HBO Now apps exceeded the previous series high of 16.9 million viewers for the Season 7 finale two years ago.
On social media, Sunday’s premiere was also the most-tweeted-about episode of the show ever, with more than 5 million tweets and 11 million mentions throughout the course of the weekend, HBO said in a statement.
All of the top 10 global Twitter trends late Sunday evening were about the episode.
The series set among warring families in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, which began in 2007, has become HBO’s biggest hit.
Season 7 averaged 32.8 million U.S. viewers per episode when delayed viewing was counted, and HBO said it expected the Season 8 average to “grow considerably.
“Game of Thrones” is available in over 150 countries, but HBO said viewing data is not easily retrieved in many of those markets, making a global figure impossible to calculate.
Despite its avid fan base, “Game of Thrones” is far from the biggest television event in the United States. The annual NFL Super Bowl attracts about 100 million viewers and the 2019 Oscars ceremony in February was watched on television by 29.6 million Americans.
The final episode of “Game of Thrones” will air on May 19.