The premiere of the AMC original series The Walking Dead was anything but, as the one-hour telecast scared up a whopping 5.34 million viewers on Halloween night.
Among those who stayed in to watch the episode were 3.57 million viewers 18-49, making The Walking Dead the most successful cable series debut of 2010. The overall delivery and demo numbers also marked an historic high for an AMC original series bow. (AMC’s all-time biggest draw to date came courtesy of its two-part miniseries event, Broken Trail. All told, the Robert Duvall oater averaged 9.96 million viewers on June 25 and 26, 2006, per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day ratings data.)
If The Walking Dead’s numbers weren’t frightening enough to AMC’s Sunday night competition, consider the fact that many fans of the zombie/horror genre were likely out bobbing for apples or hurling eggs at hapless passersby while the series debuted. If past performance is anything to go by, AMC could very well see those deliveries swell by as much as 50 percent upon application of L-7 data.
In other words, after AMC is credited for DVR playback, The Walking Dead’s deliveries could swell to some 8 million viewers. Any way you slice it, look to AMC president and general manager Charlie Collier to announce a renewal soon. While AMC brass didn’t say it in so many words, the premiere far outstripped the network’s early expectations.
“It’s a good day to be dead,” Collier cracked. “We are so proud of this series, its depth of storytelling and the remarkable talent attached. As the network dedicated to bringing viewers the best stories on television, we are so pleased to have the opportunity with The Walking Dead to raise the bar within this popular genre and continue our commitment to being the home of premium television on basic cable.”
Per preliminary Nielsen data, TWD also delivered 3.13 million adults 25-54 and 2.08 million viewers 18-34. When the two encore presentations were factored in, the cumulative reach of the show equaled 8.1 million total viewers.
Last night’s numbers were particularly impressive, given what The Walking Dead faced in the 10 p.m. hour. On Fox, Game 4 of the 2010 World Series was heading into the late innings as the first signs of zombie apocalypse became manifest on AMC. Meanwhile, NBC boasted a close Sunday Night Football contest featuring the Super Bowl champion Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Giants-Rangers drew a 10. 4 overnight rating, while the interconference NFL broadcast drew an 11.8.