Netflix’s “The Witcher” pulled off a switcheroo for the upcoming fourth season, replacing series star Henry Cavill with Liam Hemsworth. This was major news as Cavill has become the face of the show. In many ways he looked like ideal casting as a self-identified fantasy nerd and fan of the Witcher novels and games.
“The Witcher” was a breakout success for Netflix right out of the gate. It peaked at 120 times the average series demand two weeks after it premiered on December 20, 2019, according to Parrot Analytics‘ data, which takes into account consumer research, streaming, downloads and social media, among other engagement. Interestingly, demand for the second season lagged behind the first season, peaking at 80 times the average (which is still an exceptional performance, to be fair).
The second season also trailed the first in hours viewed in the first 28 days, as reported by Netflix. Despite the weaker performance of Season 2, Netflix doubled down on the franchise by renewing “The Witcher” through a fourth season and expanding the franchise with an animated movie (“The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”) and a prequel series (“The Witcher: Blood Origin”) scheduled for release at the end of December.
With Cavill returning as monster hunger Geralt of Rivia in the upcoming third season, it will be some time before we can measure the direct impact of Hemsworth’s casting. Season 3 is expected to drop at some point in mid-2023, and the casting announcement may actually boost interest as fans pile in to see Cavill’s final performances.
Hemsworth could get a major boost from landing the Geralt role. After all, Cavill saw an 81% increase in his talent demand from the show, growing from 16 times the average in the six months before the show’s 2019 premiere to 29 times the average six months after “The Witcher” launched. (Consider, too, that the British star was already developed a loyal following from DC Comics plans for playing Superman on the big screen.)
The effect wasn’t short-term either. Cavill’s demand permanently shifted to a higher level, showing how he was successful in integrating fans of “The Witcher” franchise into his own fan base.
In the 6 months preceding the “Witcher” announcement, Hemsworth boasted a more modest demand of 3.5 times the average. While he’s starting from a lower baseline than Cavill did in 2019, the former “Hunger Games” star stands to see his demand increase in the role.
However, Hemsworth faces additional challenges as a replacement for Cavill, who’s beloved by “Witcher” fans and may whip up backlash to the casting change. In the week following the announcement, the sentiment around Liam Hemsworth shifted in a decidedly negative direction. That may just be a short-term reaction, but the Aussie may have some work to do to win over fans.