HBO began teasing its new series “The Last of Us” two years before its premiere on Jan. 15, taking a slow-burn approach to feeding content to fans of the video game by the same title, over time.
That strategy appears to have paid off already—Sunday’s premiere drew an audience of 4.7 million across linear and streaming, according to HBO, making it the second-largest debut since the network began making its content available digitally. That number grew to 10 million in two days.
One key to the show’s record performance was listening and responding to the IP’s existing fandom, said Emily Giannusa, VP of marketing at HBO. Prior to HBO’s show, an immense community had already flocked to the harrowing story of a rebel group’s fight for survival against an oppressive regime and zombie-esque outbreak, originally released as a Playstation-exclusive game in 2013. It sold 3.4 million units within three weeks and spawned a sequel, “The Last of Us Part II,” in 2020, plus a remaster of the original in September 2022.