Better Off Dead: AMC Zombie Hit Tears Into Sunday Night

Episode 2 of The Walking Dead draws 13.9 million viewers

Like the fence meant to keep out hoards of ravenous Walkers, ratings for AMC’s monster hit The Walking Dead last night sagged a bit but did not buckle.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the second installment of The Walking Dead delivered 13.9 million viewers and a 7.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo. And while that marked a 14 percent drop in total viewers and a 13 percent decline in the dollar demo, the show remains all but untouchable in its ability to reach younger adults. (With an estimated draw of 9 million adults 18-49, Dead’s target demo accounts for a whopping 65 percent of its overall deliveries.)

Not only is the zombie apocalypse drama beating every scripted series in its time slot, but Dead is also out-gunning everything on TV not associated with the National Football League. Season to date, the most-watched and highest-rated scripted broadcast was a special 8:30 p.m. installment of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, which drew 20.4 million viewers and a 6.1 rating on Sept. 26.

In head-to-head competition, scripted broadcast can’t lay a finger on the Dead. ABC’s troubled freshman drama Betrayal last night drew a mere 3.51 million viewers and a 0.9 in the demo, while a delayed airing of CBS’ The Amazing Race/The Good Wife delivered 8.87 million viewers and a 1.9/8.99 million viewers and a 1.4 rating.

The only TV property that is immune to the Dead’s charms is NBC’s Sunday Night Football. A hotly anticipated meeting between Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos and his former Indianapolis Colts squad averaged 26.9 million viewers and a 10.0 in the demo. At 9 p.m., the offensive showdown scared up an estimated 27.5 million viewers and a 9.8 rating, beating Dead by 38 percent.

Despite the slippage in the face of the NFL’s huge prime-time game, last night’s Dead now stands as the second most-watched and highest-rated episode in the show’s four-season history. With great ratings come even greater ad rates; according to media buyers, a package buy on the Dead’s Sunday premiere/Talking Dead/encore block averages out to around $347,000 per 30-second spot.

Unit costs for season premieres and finales are much higher, fetching as much as $569,000 per :30.