‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Better Call Saul’ Premieres Pack a Ratings Punch for AMC

walking dead 603 michonne
Courtesy of AMC

Despite falling a bit from its peak run in 2014, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” remains the biggest entertainment series on television in key demos, with last week’s premiere episode attracting more than 20 million viewers in three-day ratings that include VOD, DVR playback as well as digital viewing. It teamed with a season high for “Talking Dead” and a solid season-two premiere for “Better Call Saul” to cap a big two nights for the network.

Nielsen estimates that the midseason premiere of “The Walking Dead” averaged 19.1 million total viewers and 12.1 million adults 18-49 (9.5 rating) in “live plus-3” estimates. This is a jump from the show’s fall finale in November (18.3 million total viewers and 11.8 million adults 18-49) and the zombie drama’s best numbers since last fall’s premiere (19.5 million total viewers, including 12.8 million adults 18-49).

The midseason return episode aired on Valentine’s Day and in the middle of a three-day holiday weekend, and it saw lifts of about 40% in all categories when going from “same-day” to “live plus-3.” According to AMC, an additional 1.125 million watched the show digitally within the first three days of its premiere (including more than 1 million adults 18-49), bringing its linear/digital L+3 total to about 20.1 million.

Also that night, the return of “Talking Dead” its largest audience in nearly a year: 7.5 million total viewers, including 4.6 million adults 18-49 (3.6 rating). Last fall, it peaked in total viewers with 7.3 million for its third episode of the season. And at 12:02 a.m., the midseason premiere of “Comic Book Men” drew 1.3 million viewers, including 865,000 adults 18-49.

On Monday, the second-season premiere of “Better Call Saul” averaged 4.7 million viewers overall, including 2.7 million adults 18-49 (2.1 rating). The show, which went up against the Grammy Awards on CBS, nearly doubled its demo total from its same-day delivery (1.1 rating). It was well down from last year when it had a lead-in from “The Walking Dead,” but the acclaimed drama figures to finish third among all scripted cable programs for the week in 18-49 — behind only “Walking Dead” and FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”

A special “Talking Saul” aftershow averaged 943,000 viewers last Monday, including 521,000 adults 18-49. It grew nearly 30% in both categories from its same-day averages.

Also of note in L+3 last week, Disney Channel scored Feb. 14 with the basic-cable premiere of Disney’s theatrical blockbuster “Frozen” (4.45 million viewers) and a special sneak peek of upcoming original comedy series “Stuck in the Middle” (3.07 million). They were the top two telecasts of the week among kids 2-11 and kids 6-11, and rank among the top 5 cable TV telecasts for 2016 to date.

Just as it did in same-day numbers, CBS claimed the week’s 10 most popular broadcast programs, led by “The Big Bang Theory” (20.88 million) and “NCIS” (19.61 million). Only “The Walking Dead” (third overall) kept the network from sweeping the overall top 10.

(Feb. 8-14, 2016; live plus-3)

Adults 18-49
1.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 9.6
2.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 5.6
3.  Modern Family (ABC), 3.9
4.  Talking Dead (AMC), 3.6
5.  The X-Files (Fox), 3.5
5.  NBA All-Star Game (TNT/TBS), 3.5
7.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 3.4
8.  Scandal (ABC), 3.3
9.  How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), 3.2
10.  The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX), 3.1
11.  NCIS (CBS), 3.0
11.  Chicago PD (NBC), 3.0
11.  The Bachelor (ABC), 3.0
14.  Law & Order: SVU (NBC), 2.9
15.  Scorpion (CBS), 2.8
15.  NBA All-Star Saturday Night (TNT), 2.8
17.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 2.7
17.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 2.7
19.  Life in Pieces (CBS), 2.6
19.  Black-ish (ABC), 2.6
19.  The Blacklist (NBC), 2.6
19.  The Goldbergs (ABC), 2.6
23.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 2.5
23.  Chicago Fire (NBC), 2.5
23.  Lucifer (Fox), 2.5
26.  The Middle (ABC), 2.4
26.  NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 2.4
28.  Republican South Carolina Debate (CBS), 2.3
28.  Supergirl (CBS), 2.3
28.  Mom (CBS), 2.3

Total Viewers
1.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 20.88
2.  NCIS (CBS), 19.61
3.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 19.08
4.  NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), 14.98
5.  Blue Bloods (CBS), 14.45
6.  Republican South Carolina Debate (CBS), 14.05
7.  Scorpion (CBS), 13.93
8.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 12.55
9.  Madam Secretary (CBS), 12.06
10.  Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), 11.80
11.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 11.61
11.  Chicago PD (NBC), 11.61
13.  Modern Family (ABC), 10.97
14.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 10.94
15.  Chicago Fire (NBC), 10.84
16.  Life in Pieces (CBS), 10.82
17.  60 Minutes (CBS), 10.76
18.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 10.71
19.  The X-Files (Fox), 10.70
20.  The Blacklist (NBC), 10.62
21.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 10.44
22.  Law & Order: SVU (NBC), 10.38
23.  The Good Wife (CBS), 10.20
24.  Scandal (ABC), 9.96
25.  Code Black (CBS), 9.86
26.  The Bachelor (ABC), 9.84
27.  Mom (CBS), 9.81
28.  Supergirl (CBS), 9.45
29.  How to Get Away With Murder (CBS), 9.25
30.  Chicago Med (NBC), 9.19

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