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The series based on the hit video game franchise — and co-created by the game’s architect, Neil Druckmann, and Craig Mazin — delivered 4.7 million cross-platform viewers on Sunday night, according to Nielsen and first-party data from HBO. That figure trails only House of the Dragon’s nearly 10 million among HBO series premieres in the past decade-plus. Other than the Game of Thrones prequel, the last HBO show with a larger opening-night audience for its debut was Boardwalk Empire (4.81 million) in 2010 — several years before HBO had any serious streaming presence.
“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 Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max Content. “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 4.7 million viewers encompasses the on-air premiere on HBO, replays later in the night and streaming on HBO Max. Just 588,000 of those viewers — 12.5 percent of the cross-platform total — watched the episode at 9 p.m. on HBO. The rest came from streaming (which is likely a large majority of the total) and on-air replas. On House of the Dragon’s premiere night, more than half of the cross-platform audience came via streaming.
HBO says a show’s first-night audience typically is 20 percent to 40 percent of its eventual total over the course of its run — House of the Dragon averaged about 9 million viewers on Sundays, a little under a third of the eventual 29 million it pulled in over 10 weeks. Should that pattern hold for The Last of Us, it would likely end up in a range of 12 million to 23 million viewers for its run.
The Last of Us is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a fungal pandemic has killed much of humanity and turned others into monsters. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey star.
Sunday’s biggest primetime show, unsurprisingly, was NBC’s NFL wild-card playoff game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. It drew 26.87 million viewers on the network and 28.6 million across all platforms, according to Nielsen and NBC’s internal measurement.
The CW’s broadcast of the Critics Choice Awards took a hit, falling to 910,000 viewers from 1.09 million last year, when they were held in March. (A TBS simulcast of the 2022 awards brought the total to 1.55 million.)
Jan. 18, 8:45 a.m. Updated with additional Sunday ratings.
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