Even after one of the bloodiest and darkest episodes in the AMC series’ history, The Walking Dead really does have something to celebrate about its Season 7 debut – and we’re not talking a fantasy sequence. With 17 million watching the October 23 premiere to discover who Negan would kill and 10.7 million among adults 18-49 for an 8.4 rating, the zombie apocalypse blockbuster had a very good night as the No. 1 show on broadcast and cable.
Well, TWD knocked the stuffing out of the often-dominating Sunday Night Football demo-wise this weekend, left the Season 3 debut of Big 4 heavy hitter Empire Season 3 in the dust, and solidly bested its own Season 6 premiere last year. Add to that, the show based on the Robert Kirkman comics basically matched its all-time series highs of the Season 5 opener of October 12, 2014 in both viewers and the demo. And, with maybe a slightly aging fanbase after all these years, pile on that the Season 7 opener set a series high among adults 25- 54 (10.5 million), making it clear that The Walking Dead is alive and kicking at this point deep into its run, when most other shows are DOA.
Compared to the all-time series high of that Season 5 opener (17.3M total viewers, 11M 18-49s), the dual-death Season 7 debut dipped just 2% in total viewers and 3% in the 18-49 demo. Which is really almost as close as you can get to match that record without being right on the money, even with the loss of the Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) to the end of the Jeffrey Dean Morgan-portrayed Negan’s barbed-wire bat.
Coming off a Season 6 that had seen some definite ratings declines, Sunday’s heavily marketed “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” episode topped the early 18-49 numbers for the NFL and NBC’s rising SNF this weekend by 58%. Staying on broadcast for a second, the Greg Nicotero-directed and Scott M. Gimple-penned season opener eclipsed Empire‘s third-season starter on September 21 by 100% in the key demo.
TWD to TWD, the AMC show’s Season 7 premiere was up 13% among the 18-49s over its Season 6 start October 11 last year. Viewership-wise, this year’s premiere rose 16% over the 14.6 million who watched the 90-minute “First Time Again” episode that started Season 6. Although a bit zombies to vampires, looking at the cliffhanger Season 6 “Last Day On Earth” finale on April 3, Sunday’s episode rose 20% in total audience and 22% in the 18-49s.
As a result, Sunday was a very good night for after-show Talking Dead too. Broadcasting live from a sometimes rain-soaked Hollywood Forever Cemetery with TWD cast and creatives, the Chris Hardwick hosted show had its best viewership results ever and near matched its key demo high. Watched by about 2000 people at HFC, the 90-minute Talking Dead was seen by 7.6 million people on TV in Live + Same Day results and 4.7 million in the 18-49s for a 3.7 million rating.