The Last of Us Gives HBO Its Second-Largest Premiere in a Decade

Against all odds, The Last of Us got off to an auspicious start when it debuted its first episode on HBO this past Sunday. A live-action film based on Naughty Dog’s hit video game was in the works for nearly a decade before Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin got his hands on it. But most critics seem to agree that bringing Joel and Ellie’s adventure to the small screen was the right way to go. And now, the series officially has the viewership numbers to back that up.

Deadline is reporting that 4.7 million viewers tuned in to watch Sunday’s The Last of Us premiere across both the linear HBO channel and HBO Max. This makes it the second-most-watched debut on HBO since Boardwalk Empire launched in 2010. However, its initial figures fall considerably short of last year’s ratings juggernaut, House of the Dragon. But this would have been a tough feat to pull off. The first Game of Thrones spinoff famously shattered the network’s all-time record in 2022 with nearly 10 million viewers tuning in to watch its own pilot episode.

In any case, The Last of Us is currently outperforming several other high-profile members of the HBO family. The show’s premiere numbers are almost double what the season 2 premiere of Euphoria pulled in last year. It also managed to outpace the series premieres of Game of Thrones, Westworld, Silicon Valley, Veep, and Succession, to name just a few. Since the show already has a built-in fanbase, its success in the ratings arena isn’t a huge shock. But the news is bound to astonish anyone still reeling from the fact that a video game adaptation is doing well in any respect. And it also boosts the series’ chances of getting a season 2 renewal down the line.

HBO’s report also mentions that Sunday night viewership for one of its original programs typically represents 20%-40% of its total gross audience per episode. In other words, The Last of Us’ audience seemingly has nowhere to go but up, and Casey Bloys, the chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max content, sounds excited by what the future holds. 

“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,” said Bloys in a new statement. “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.”

The second episode of The Last of Us will premiere on HBO on Sunday, January 22.

What do you make of the pilot’s viewership numbers? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

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