“The Last of Us” has become a bona fide hit for HBO. After achieving record-breaking viewership with both Episode 1 and Episode 2 and scoring an early renewal for a second season, the series has already reached new heights with 6.4 million viewers having tuned into the third installment Sunday.
This number comes from a combination of Nielsen’s measurement of linear viewers across airings of Episode 3 on HBO on Sunday — which accounted for just over 1.1 million — plus Warner Bros. Discovery’s own first-party data regarding streams on HBO Max through the night.
Viewership of “The Last of Us” has already been historic. The series entered HBO’s roster as the brand’s second-most viewed series premiere in over a decade, comparable only to the debut of “House of the Dragon” in 2022 — and by its third episode, “House of the Dragon” viewership was already dropping. By contrast, “The Last of Us” Episode 3’s 6.4 million viewers represent a 12% percent increase from last week’s 5.7 million, which itself was a 22% percent improvement on the first episode’s 4.7 million.
It should also be noted that these statistics point to viewership over each episode’s first night of availability alone. By the time Episode 2 was released, Warner Bros. Discovery reported that Episode 1 had taken the week to grow to an audience of 18 million viewers. As of Tuesday, WBD says the first two episodes are now averaging 21.3 million viewers combined.
Along with the new “Last of Us” Episode 3 results, WBD also reported Tuesday that for the first time ever, HBO has four different series — across all genres, including limited series — tracking at 15 million viewers or more per episode: “The Last of Us” at 21.3 million viewers, “The White Lotus” Season 2 (which concluded in December 2022) at 15.5 million, “House of the Dragon” (which concluded its first season in October 2022) at 29 million, and “Euphoria” Season 2 (which concluded in February 2022) with 19.5 million.
Titled “Long Long Time,” Episode 3 of “The Last of Us” immediately garnered major praise from fans and critics alike. Sunday’s episode saw the series make its first major deviation from its source material — the PlayStation video games of the same name — and used flashback to focus on the decades-long love story between Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) smuggling compatriots, Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).
“It seemed like such a rich and yet unseen story,” series co-creator Craig Mazin explained in an interview with Variety that also includes co-creator Neil Druckmann, episode director Peter Hoar, Offerman and Bartlett. “It afforded us a chance to look at how time passed, but also to ask a question about what happens if you’re safe. I was just fascinated by the idea of Bill, as somebody who had created a place of safety, and then here comes Frank crashing in. From there, it just went differently in my head than what was there in the game.”
VIP+ Analysis: PlayStation’s Plan for HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’