With a lot of red meat and explosions galore, the zombie apocalypse returned to AMC last night bigger than ever. The Season 5 debut of The Walking Dead pulled in 17.3 million total viewers on Sunday at 9 PM with 11 million among adults 18-49. With a rise of 7% and 6%, respectively, that viewership and demo series record chews up the previous high of 16.1 million watching and 10.4 million among the 18-49s that the Season 4 premiere of the blockbuster series drew on October 13 last year. (Watch the first four minutes of last night’s episode here.)
As it stands right now, the hourlong S5 opener “No Sanctuary,” directed by EP Greg Nicotero, has scored a touchdown over the NFL, Fox’s football overrun and NBC’s Sunday Night Football among the key demo to win primetime in both broadcast and cable. That could change in the final numbers, as it did with last season’s debut, which eventually saw a slim SNF win after what initially looked like a WD victory. However, the Philadelphia Eagles crushing 27-0 win over the NY Giants last night and the ensuing ratings fall from last week and last year makes it a hard one for the usually unbeatable NFL and SNF to turn around this time. Last season, The Walking Dead not only proved the most successful nonsports show on TV among the 18-49s but actually beat the NFL twice and the Winter Olympics three weeks in a row.
With a 6.0/16 rating in fast nationals, SNF had 7.64 million viewers in the key demo between 8:30 and 11 PM last night. Comparing the NFL game with the 8.7 rating of the WD premiere in the 9 PM time slot, SNF had 8.26 million among the 18-49s in preliminary ratings.
Comparing season opener to season finale, the Season 5 start of The Walking Dead is up strong from the viewership from the 15.7 million who watched the Season 4 ender on March 30. That biting episode got 10.2 million viewers among the 18-49 demo and is the highest-rated and most watched finale of the show so far.
Unsurprisingly already renewed for a sixth season, The Walking Dead is executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, Scott M. Gimple, Tom Luse and Robert Kirkman, who co-created the comic the series is based on.