New HBO Show Continues to Grow Audience as Season Goes On

HBO already has strong footing when it comes to "water cooler TV," and its new show The Last of Us is proving to be exceptional even among the network's other hits. According to a report by Deadline, this weekend's episode got even more viewers than last week, meaning that each episode of the show so far has increased its viewership. This definitely bodes well for the apocalyptic drama.

The Last of Us Episode 3 premiered on Sunday night with 6.4 million live viewers, according to data from Nielsen and HBO itself. That's a 12 percent increase from last week and a 37 percent increase from the series premiere, which had 4.7 million same-day viewers. The second episode had already set a record for the largest week 2 audience growth for an HBO original drama series, so it's safe to say that The Last of Us is a certified TV sensation. It's no surprise that HBO has already renewed the series for a second season.

The Last of Us has reignited conversations about "water cooler TV" and the benefits of a week-by-week release rather than an all-at-once binge model. Fans note that it's easier for a show with a weekly release to become a cultural sensation as it increases word-of-mouth promotion and it makes the show feel like an event that viewers will want to be a part of. However, the reality is that many shows get the most viewers for their season premieres and season finales, with low ratings in between. The Last of Us has broken this pattern so far.

Still, streaming has obviously played a role in this success. Fans who missed the season premiere likely caught up on HBO Max – possibly at the recommendation of a friend – and the streaming model will allow new viewers to jump in at any time for the rest of the season. HBO has already released the ratings with streaming views included so far – the first two episodes averaged 21.3 million viewers each, and they will likely increase in the weeks to come.

The Last of Us is an adaptation of a beloved PlayStation video game, so it comes with a built-in audience to some extent. In the story, modern civilization effectively collapsed in the early 2000s, with survivors living mostly in oppressive "quarantine zones." It is about a man named Joel (Pedro Pascal) who is experienced in traveling outside the quarantine zones. He is hired to smuggle 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of an area, but the task soon grows into a brutal journey and a test of wills.

The Last of Us airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. The first three episodes are streaming now on HBO Max.