The numbers are in. With Sunday’s premiere episode, The Last of Us scored the second-largest debut for the platform since Boardwalk Empire premiered in 2010, only behind last year’s House of the Dragon.
THE LAST OF US SERIES PREMIERE DRAWS HUGE NUMBERS ON HBO
According to Nielsen and first-party data, as announced by the network, 4.7 million viewers tuned in Sunday night to meet Joel and Ellie. That equates to a 53% drop from House of the Dragon’s premiere numbers, but twice as many eyeballs as the season two premiere of Euphoria, which, according to HBO numbers, went on to average 19.5 million viewers per episode in the U.S. alone. In a statement, Chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max content, Casey Bloys, celebrated the achievement when he said the following:
“We are thrilled to see fans of the series and game alike experience this iconic story in a new way, and we extend our gratitude to them for helping to make it a success. Congratulations to Craig, Neil and the brilliant cast and crew who worked tirelessly to bring this show to life. We look forward to fans around the world enjoying the rest of the season.”
Added executive Producers Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann:
“Our focus was simply to make the best possible adaptation of this beloved story for as big an audience as we could. We are overjoyed to see how many fans, both old and new, have welcomed ‘The Last of Us’ into their homes and their hearts.”
HBO WAS THE PERFECT HOUSE FOR THE LAST OF US
The Last of Us is the live-action series adaptation of the beloved 2013 video game from Naughty Dog. After the attempt to make a feature film with Sam Raimi that Maisie Williams could have potentially joined (a deal was never in place, but there was some behind-the-scenes movement on the actress’ end), HBO picked up the rights years later and started developing the series with Naughty Dog’s co-president and mastermind behind the original game, Neil Druckmann, on board.
The announcement of a live-action series adaptation was made in early March of 2020, with Druckmann and Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin attached to write and executive produce. At some point, Chernobyl’s Johan Renck was brought on board as a director but ultimately backed out.
Druckmann and Mazin are both co-creators, writers, directors, and executive producers of the series, and have seen through its development from the beginning to completion. This is arguably the first video game adaptation to feel truly groundbreaking for the genre, feeling less like fan service and more like a truly emotional story that hooks the viewer and never lets go.
It’s always interesting hearing these numbers because as much as HBO is known for putting out quality content, the truth is that it’s not the most popular or watched premium service. However, it is a platform known for its insistence on quality over quantity and its dedication to finding the best people for the job and putting together the best crew possible.
Succession may not have the viewership that House of the Dragon did, but the network is satisfied with the program because of what it does in terms of prestige for the brand. From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like The Last of Us could be the best of both worlds, bringing in plenty of new viewers and awards as well, similar to what Game of Thrones did for HBO in the 2010s.
We have an absolute embarrassment of riches this year with HBO, beginning with The Last of Us, continuing with White House Plumbers, The Idol, Winning Time season 2, and, obviously Succession season 4, one of the most awarded series to be airing right now; among many others. House of the Dragon season 2 should begin shooting in the first quarter of the year, aiming for a 2024 release.
New episodes of The Last of Us will premiere on HBO Sunday nights and will be available to stream on HBO Max right after. The first season will consist of nine episodes.
What do you think of the news? Are you impressed with the audience The Last of Us drew for its debut episode? Do you think the audience will draw or perhaps taper off from here? Let us know what you think about it on The Illuminerdi Twitter account.