If The Walking Dead didn’t already strike terror in the hearts of broadcast executives, Sunday night’s premiere deliveries should leave them quaking in their boots.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the Season 4 premiere of AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama scared up a whopping 16.1 million viewers and an 8.2 in the 18-49 demo, beating everything on the dial and setting yet another record for an ad-supported cable series.
Cheekily titled “30 Days Without an Accident,” last night’s season opener absolutely obliterated the show’s previous record, which was set during the March 31 season finale—12.3 million viewers and a 6.4 in the dollar demo.
While The Walking Dead devoured every broadcast show in its path, it still wasn’t deadly enough to unseat NBC’s Sunday Night Football as TV’s all-consuming program. The Dallas-Washington showdown averaged 22.1 million viewers and an 8.2 in the 18-49 demo.
With time-shifted playback, the premiere is all but certain to break the 20 million viewer mark.
“Sincere thanks to the fans who have welcomed The Walking Dead back for its fourth season with the highest-rated episode in the show’s history,” said AMC president Charlie Collier. “We could not be more proud of this show.”
Collier went on to doff his cap to series creator, writer and executive producer Robert Kirkman, showrunner and executive producer Scott Gimple, and director/executive producer Greg Nicotero. “Thanks to them, the dead have never been more alive,” Collier said.
The telecast also generated a torrent of social media activity, garnering 1,171,994 tweets from 570,148 unique authors, per SocialGuide. On Facebook, more than 5 million users had more than 9.3 million interactions related to the premiere.
The season opener comes on the heels of the triumphant Breaking Bad finale. Vince Gilligan’s bloody-minded masterpiece closed out last month to 10.3 million total viewers and a 5.3 rating.
A Walking Dead spinoff is in the works, with an eye toward landing on AMC sometime in 2015.