It was announced on October 29th that in the 4th season of The Witcher Henry Cavill would be replaced by Liam Hemsworth in the lead role. This was major news as Henry 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. Interestingly, demand for the second season lagged the first season, peaking at 80x (which is still an exceptional performance to be fair, but well below the level of demand it reached in the first season). The second season also lagged the first in hours viewed in the first 28 days as reported by Netflix. Despite the weaker performance of season two, Netflix has doubled down on the franchise by renewing The Witcher through season four 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 still portraying Geralt of Rivia in the upcoming third season it will be some time before we can measure the direct impact of Liam Hemsworth’s casting on the show. Season 3 is expected to drop at some point in mid-2023 and will still feature Henry Cavill in the lead role. The casting announcement may actually have the effect of boosting interest in the third season of the show as fans pile in to see Cavill’s final performance in the role.
This casting change has the potential to be a major boost to Liam Hemsworth’s profile. We can measure the impact The Witcher had on demand for Henry Cavill. In the six months before the show premiered at the end of 2019, Henry Cavill had 16 times the average talent demand. At that point he was already fairly well known for playing Superman and had the attention of the DC fanbase. In the six months after the premiere of The Witcher he averaged 29x demand. This represents an 81% increase in the amount of demand Henry Cavill attracted. This wasn’t a short term effect either - Mr. Cavill’s demand permanently shifted to a higher level after his debut as Geralt of Rivia, showing how he was successful in integrating fans of The Witcher franchise (books, video games, show) into his own fanbase.
Liam Hemsworth’s demand in the 6 months preceding the casting change announcement was a much more modest 3.5x. An increase in demand on the scale that Henry Cavill saw after his debut in the role would vault Mr. Hemsworth to a new level of demand. It is likely that he may even see a larger boost to the attention he is currently getting because he is starting from a lower baseline than Mr. Cavill was in 2019.
This will be a tricky feat for Liam Hemsworth to pull off however as fans of the show are particularly attached to Henry Cavill in the role and a major change to a popular franchise like this is more likely than not to invite backlash. In the week following the announcement we measured the sentiment of the conversation around Liam Hemsworth. It shifted in a decidedly negative direction compared to where it had been prior to the news. This may just be a short term reaction, but it shows that Mr. Hemsworth has some work to do to convince fans he’s meant for the role.