The series premiere of “The Last of Us” brought in a staggering 4.7 million viewers across its linear and HBO Max platforms on Sunday evening, according to Nielsen and first-party data.
The post-apocalyptic drama series, which is based on Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed video game franchise, holds HBO’s second-largest debut – behind only “House of the Dragon” – since “Boardwalk Empire” premiered on the network in 2010.
Sunday night’s performance was nearly double the Season 2 debut night for “Euphoria,” which went on to average 19.5 million viewers per episode in the United States. Sunday night viewership for an HBO series typically represents 20% to 40% of the show’s total gross audience per episode.
“The Last of Us” takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle a 14-year-old girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.
Rounding out the rest of the main cast is Gabriel Luna (“True Detective”), who plays Joel’s younger brother and former soldier Tommy, Anna Torv (“Fringe”), who plays a smuggler and fellow hardened survivor Tess and Merle Dandrige (“The Flight Attendant”), who reprises her role from the video game as resistance leader Marlene.
Guest stars include Nico Parker (“The Third Day”) as Joel’s daughter Sarah; Murray Bartlett (“The White Lotus”) and Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”) as Frank and Bill, two post-pandemic survivalists living alone in their own isolated town; Storm Reid (“Euphoria”) as Riley, an orphan in Boston; and Jeffrey Pierce ( “The Last of Us” video games) as Perry, a rebel in a quarantine zone.
The series, which is a co-production with Sony Pictures Television, is written and executive produced by Craig Mazin (“Chernobyl”) and Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann. Other executive producers include Carolyn Strauss, Evan Wells, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan and Rose Lam.
“Our focus was simply to make the best possible adaptation of this beloved story for as big an audience as we could,” Mazin and Druckmann said in a statement. “We are overjoyed to see how many fans, both old and new, have welcomed ‘The Last of Us’ into their homes and their hearts.”
The strong viewership comes as “The Last of Us” has received wide praise from critics, who have lauded the show as “the best video game adaptation ever” and “the beginning of a new era for live-action video game adaptations.”
“The Last of Us” first made its debut on PlayStation 3 in 2013, while its sequel, “The Last of Us: Part II,” was released in 2020 on the PlayStation 4. The franchise has sold more than 37 million copies globally as of December 2022, according to Naughty Dog.
To date, teasers and trailers for HBO’s adaptation have amassed more than 100 million views globally. Additionally, the first episode of the series’ companion podcast hit #1 on Apple’s TV & Film chart in the U.S. within 24 hours of its release.
“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,” HBO & HBO Max Content Chairman and CEO Casey Bloys said in a 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 Last of Us” airs weekly on HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET and is streaming on HBO Max