The zombie apocalypse is back but with a bit less bite than before. The Season 6 debut of The Walking Dead snared 14.6 million viewers on Sunday with 9.4 million among adults 18-49 for a 7.43 rating, according to Nielsen.

While great numbers for any show on broadcast or cable nowadays, that’s down 16% and 15% in viewers and the demo, respectively, from the then and still record-breaking Season 5 premiere of the AMC series on October 12, 2014. It is also down from the Season 4 debut on October 13, 2013, which had an 8.2 demo rating and 16.1 million total viewers. But Sunday’s debut is the top show of the 2015-15 TV season so far and it is the third-best season opener TWD has had, topping the then record-breaking Season 3 opener of October 14, 2012. 

Sunday is also a close but sure 7% 18-49 win for the 90-minute “First Time Again” episode over Sunday Night Football. Down double digits from last week, the New York Giants’ dramatic 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers scored a 6.9 rating among the demo with a total audience of 19.6 million and 8.7 million in the 18-49s. In fast nationals, SNF got a 5.8 rating among the 18-49s with a total viewership of 16.13 million, that’s 28% less than TWD did.

nfl nbc sunday night football logoAlso worth noting as close as this latest TWD victory is, the AMC show did beat SNF five of the eight times they went head to head last season. And, looking at the Sunday time slot fast nationals, one can certainly see where TWD soundly tackled what was by any estimation a very competitive game on SNF. At 8:30 PM, SNF is showing a 6.5 rating in its early minutes, but come 9 PM, and with TWD hitting the air, that result falls fast to a 6.0. By 9:30 PM, SNF is down to a 5.6 and goes further in decline to a 5.3 in the 10 PM half-hour. No surprise SNF sees a small rise to 5.4 once TWD is over at 10:30 PM.

Sunday’s The Walking Dead was up from the 6.7/20 demo result of the biggest show on the Big 4, the Empire Season 2 debut of September 23. But compared with the 15.8 million viewers with 10.4 million among the 18-49s of its March 29 Season 5 finale, the Season 6 opener slipped; debut to finale, it dipped 9% among the 18-49s and 7% in total viewers. Unsurprisingly, TWD was well up this weekend over the 6.86 million total viewers and a 3.37 rating that the Season 1 finale of companion series Fear The Walking Dead pulled in on October 4 in Live+Same Day results.

BTW, the Season 5 debut of TWD last October went up to another record breaker of 22.372 million total viewers and 14.523 million in the demo in Live+3 results, aka 29% and 32% jumps, respectively. That’s going to be the next set of number to watch for later this week, record or no record. And one last stat for today: according to Nielsen, the TWD S6 premiere generated 611,000 “event-related tweets.” That’s the second best of any show this week with American Horror Story: Hotel’s debut October in the top spot with 878,000.