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AMC’s ‘Better Call Saul’ Premiere Breaks Cable Record; ‘Walking Dead’ Returns With 15.6 Million Viewers

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” returned with monster — though not quite record-breaking — ratings on Sunday and also helped lead-out “Better Call Saul” to the best-ever cable premiere delivery in key demos.

According to Nielsen estimates, “Walking Dead” averaged an 8.0 rating in adults 18-49 (about 10.1 million) and 15.6 million viewers overall, the third best scores for the show to date behind only its season premieres in 2014 (8.65 demo rating, 17.29 million viewers overall) and 2013 (8.2 demo rating, 16.11 million viewers overall).

This marks the first time the zombie drama hasn’t set a series record in 18-49 with a season or midseason premiere: 2.7, 3.8, 4.2, 5.8, 6.1, 8.2, 8.6 and now 8.0.

Sunday’s midseason return of “Dead” is the top-rated regularly scheduled entertainment series telecast of 2015 in the demo (close behind only the special post-Super Bowl episode of NBC’s “The Blacklist”). It held up well to the Grammys, too, with the CBS music awards show beating it in 18-49 by a close margin (8.5 to 8.0).

Better Call Saul,” which shifts to its regular Monday timeslot tonight, debuted with 6.9 million viewers and 4.4 million adults 18-49. The previous high for a cable premiere in the demo was USA’s “The Dead Zone” in 2002 with 4 million viewers in the demo.

Among all series premieres during the 2014-15 season, “Saul” ranks third in 18-49 (3.4 rating), behind only ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and Fox’s “Empire” (both 3.8).

And at 11:15 p.m., the midseason premiere of “Talking Dead” averaged 2.8 million viewers, including 1.9 million adults 18-49. Last night’s episode featured Chad L. Coleman (Tyreese) and executive producer Greg Nicotero, who also directed last night’s episode of “The Walking Dead.”

“Walking Dead” has delivered unprecedented same-night ratings growth throughout its run — especially impressive considering that DVR usage has grown steadily since its debut in 2010.

After averaging a 2.7 rating in adults 18-49 and 5.23 million total viewers with its short, six-episode first season in the fall of 2010, the series has built with each half season since: 3.4 rating/6.45 million in fall 2011, 3.9 rating/7.45 million in winter 2012, 5.3 rating/10.08 million in fall 2012, 5.8 rating/11.41 million in winter 2013, 6.6 rating/12.98 million in fall 2013, and 7.5 rating/14.56 million in winter 2014.

In “live plus 7” averages (DVR playback for a week following a premiere) for 2014, the 16 episodes of “Walking Dead” averaged a 10.0 rating in 18-49 and 19.18 million viewers overall, up from 8.6 and 16.48 million in 2013. “Dead” was the No. 1 entertainment series on television in the demo and No. 3 in total viewers (behind only “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS”).

 

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