HBO Renews ‘The Last of Us’ for Second Season; Is Bar for Streaming Series Renewals Being Raised?
HBO has a bona fide hit on its hands with “The Last of Us,” the new series based on the popular Playstation game franchise. After two weeks in a row of record-setting viewing numbers, the show has been officially picked up for a second season on HBO and HBO Max.
“The Last of Us” takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal and heartbreaking journey as they both must traverse the United States and depend on each other for survival.
“[Producers Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann], alongside EP Carolyn Strauss, and the rest of our phenomenal cast and crew, have defined a genre with their masterful debut season of ‘The Last of Us,’” HBO Executive Vice President Francesca Orsi said. “After pulling off this unforgettable first season, I can’t wait to watch this team outshine themselves again with season two.”
The renewal announcement coming after just two episodes may seem like a quick turnaround, but Hollywood studios are not shy about locking up series that perform well and letting viewers know that the show isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, some shows are so massively hyped that they get renewed before their first seasons even begin to air, such as the recent “Halo” adaptation on Paramount+.
But HBO Max is using more caution in deciding which shows will continue on its service, these days. David Zaslav, CEO of the streamer’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery is deeply committed to making streaming profitable, which has led to hard choices regarding content removals and show cancelations. Even a bigtime franchise like “Game of Thrones,” which has already spawned one successful spin-off in “House of the Dragon,” is having trouble getting some new series off the ground.
This reticence to greenlight new shows or continue with second seasons may become more prevalent in the streaming industry, as platforms are forced to think about profits over subscriber totals. Big-budget shows like “The Last of Us” will have to continue performing at near record-breaking levels if they want to have a shot at getting past their first seasons, because otherwise, streamers will have no way to justify their continuance financially.
Streamers have another issue when determining whether or not to bring back huge prestige shows for second seasons: competition. Every service seemingly has a tentpole series with massive special effects budgets and big-name celebrities attached, and viewers can only pay attention to so many at once. In order to convince a streaming platform to lay the money on the line, content creators must be able to demonstrate that they can keep viewers engaged.
Some services like Netflix already think they’ve got the formula down. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos stated bluntly earlier this week that his service has “never canceled a successful show.” While what is “successful” will be different for every person and every platform, Netflix uses proprietary analytics to determine the fate of shows on its service, but the pattern of granting record-breaking shows early renewals is apparent. Most recently, Netflix renewed “Wednesday,” which became the first English-language series to go over 400 million hours streamed in its launch week on the platform.
As the industry-wide pivot to profitability unfolds over the next few years, it will likely get harder and harder for shows to be picked up for second seasons. Streamers might turn to gambles they deem less expensive, like picking up rights to independent movies at film festivals like Sundance. Big-budget prestige shows will have to justify their existence with huge audience numbers going forward because, if they don’t, there will be dozens of others clamoring to be developed in their place.
HBO Max is a subscription video streaming service that gives access to the full HBO library, along with exclusive Max Originals. Subscribers will have access to hit HBO series like “The Last of Us,” “House of the Dragon,” “Succession,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and more.
HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-supported plan for $9.99 and ad-free plan for $15.99. HBO Max without ads also includes features like the ability to download offline and 4K streaming.
All HBO Max subscribers will get the full libraries of shows like “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “The West Wing”, and more.
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Netflix is a subscription video streaming service that includes on-demand access to 3,000+ movies, 2,000+ TV Shows, and Netflix Originals like Stranger Things, Squid Game, The Crown, Tiger King, and Bridgerton. They are constantly adding new shows and movies. Some of their Academy Award-winning exclusives include Roma, Marriage Story, Mank, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Netflix offers three plans — on 1 device in SD with their “Basic” (₩9,500) plan, on 2 devices in HD with their “Standard” (₩12,000) plan, and 4 devices in up to 4K on their “Premium” (₩14,500) plan.
Netflix spends more money on content than any other streaming service meaning that you get more value for the monthly fee.