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'The Last of Us' is HBO's third largest debut of the streaming era

The video game adaptation is outshining some of HBO's best-known shows.
Pedro Pascal as Joel in HBO's 'The Last of Us' stands in a dimly lit room while holding a flashlight to look around.
Liane Hentscher/HBO
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|January 17, 2023 10:50 AM

If you enjoyed HBO's take on The Last of Us, you're far from alone. WarnerMedia has revealed that the video game adaptation racked up 4.7 million viewers on conventional and streaming TV for its January 15th premiere, making it HBO's third largest debut of the streaming era. Only the Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon rated higher with a crowd topping 9.9 million, and Boardwalk Empire's 4.81 million-viewer launch from 2010 (when HBO Go arrived) was only slightly stronger.

The Last of Us "nearly doubled" the audience for Euphoria's season two opener, WarnerMedia says. While it's not yet clear how well the game series will fare in the long term, the company notes that Sunday night viewing for an HBO show tends to account for 20 to 40 percent of the total gross viewership per episode.

The strong initial performance isn't surprising. On top of the long hype campaign, The Last of Us has well-known names (including Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin) as well as the benefit of an established fan base from Naughty Dog's game franchise. Include HBO Max availability and a good early critical response and there were many people willing to tune in.

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It's too soon to say if The Last of Us will be the most popular game-based TV series to date. It has to compete with successes like Netflix's League of Legends series Arcane, among others. However, the initial viewing data suggests this bet on a lavish production has paid off for everyone involved. In that light, it's easy to see why Sony was willing to commit to TV shows for God of War and Horizon. As with rival shows like Halo, this is a chance to expand interest in a franchise to many more people.

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'The Last of Us' is HBO's third largest debut of the streaming era