“The Last of Us” closed its first season with yet another triumph. With an audience of 8.2 million people for Episode 9, the series broke its own viewership record — a significant feat, considering that the finale was released during ABC’s telecast of the Oscars.
A combination of Nielsen numbers and first-party data from Warner Bros. Discovery, this number accounts for those who tuned into the Sunday night airing on HBO’s cable channel as well as streams on HBO Max through the night. WBD also shared that the first six episodes of the series are now averaging 30.4 million viewers, including ongoing viewership past initial airings, with Episode 1 alone approaching 40 million total viewers in the weeks since it debuted. In Europe and Latin America, “The Last of Us” has become the most watched show in HBO Max’s history.
This isn’t the first time that “The Last of Us” has outdone itself while competing with a major awards show. Episode 4, titled “Please Hold to My Hand,” brought in 7.5 million viewers when it aired at the same time as the Grammys, which was then a series high. (Preliminary ratings for the Oscars are expected later Monday.)
When “The Last of Us” debuted in January, it trailed “House of the Dragon” to become the second-most watched HBO premiere in over a decade with 4.7 million viewers. Episode 2 marked HBO’s biggest-ever increase between a series’ first and second episode with 5.7 million viewers. The show then brought in 6.4 million viewers with Episode 3.
On Monday, WBD also released new data about the audiences of Episodes 5-7 of “The Last of Us,” which was previously unavailable.
Episode 5 was viewed by 11.6 million people, which, though impressive, Variety is not considering a series high due to its untraditional release. Because the episode’s originally scheduled Sunday night airing was set to coincide with the Super Bowl, HBO opted to release the episode on HBO Max two days early. Therefore, this figure points to viewership across the entire weekend of Feb. 10-12, instead of one single night. Episodes 6 and 7 were viewed by 7.8 and 7.7 million people, respectively.
The most comparable series in terms of viewership has been Season 1 of “House of the Dragon,” which aired in 2022. And though “The Last of Us” hasn’t yet managed to outperform “House of the Dragon,” the former has managed a steeper week-to-week trajectory than the latter: “House of the Dragon” Season 1 averaged 29 million viewers, a number that counts continued viewership past initial airings.
Beginning with 4.7 million viewers and ending with 8.2 million, viewership of “The Last of Us” soared by 75% throughout Season 1. By contrast, “House of the Dragon” was viewed by 9.99 million with Episode 1, 10.2 million with Episode 2 and 9.3 million with its finale. (WBD did not release exact numbers regarding the audience of Episodes 3 through 9.) That’s a 6.9% decrease. And while the viewership of the “House of the Dragon” finale was certainly hurt by the fact that the episode leaked online two days before it aired, it’s almost impossible that it could have increased by the rate that “The Last of Us” did even without the leak. Despite the fact that many of the episodes’ specific tallies were unavailable, it is still known that they followed a more even path: Variety was able to confirm that viewership of “House of the Dragon” rose by 5% with Episode 4, by 3% with Episode 5 and by another 3% with Episode 6.
It should also be noted that “House of the Dragon” had the advantage of serving as a prequel to “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s biggest hit of all time, while “The Last of Us” is the first screen adaptation of its source material (the PlayStation games of the same name). “House of the Dragon” also never aired in competition with a major awards show.
“The Last of Us” scored an early renewal for a second season, which was announced when only the first two episodes of Season 1 had aired. And given the success that the series has become, a third season is already looking likely: Creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann expressed on Monday that they intend to stretch the storylines of the second “The Last of Us” video game into more than one season of television.
Read Variety‘s finale interview with Ashley Johnson, who played Ellie in the video games, and a finale interview with production designer John Paino.
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