SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of the February 14 Season 6 midseason return of The Walking Dead
There was good news and declining news for the explosive and brutal midseason return of The Walking Dead on Sunday. The zombie apocalypse blockbuster didn’t have to face the potential demo drain of the Grammy Awards this year, with the declining CBS hootenanny moved to Monday. However, even if the high-scoring NBA All-Star Game and the debut of the Martin Scorsese-helmed Vinyl from HBO weren’t factors, the AMC series took a hit.
Not that a lot of that hit came from the HBO opener. Vinyl, the drama series about the record industry of the early and decadent 1970s, drew 764,000 viewers for the premium cabler for its 9-10:54 pM ET premiere. That’s no Game Of Thrones obviously, but OK bordering on soft for an HBO debut. The opener is just a little up from what the Season 2 debut of The Leftovers pulled in on October 4 last year in a big drop from its series debut.
With Chandler Rigg’s Carl Grimes character literally taking a near-fatal shot to the head on TWD, the Greg Nicotero-directed “No Way Out” Season 6 return pulled in 13.74 million viewers with a 6.8 rating among the 18-49 demo. That’s down 12% and 15%, respectively, from the total audience of 15.6 million and 8.0 rating that the Season 5 midseason debut drew on February 8 last year (not a holiday weekend). That new-year return had a special Sunday debut of Better Call Saul as its lead-out. With TWD wind in its sails, that Breaking Bad spinoff smashed cable records with the best demo debut result ever — until TWD spinoff of a sorts Fear The Walking Dead came along in April and rewrote those cable records.
In a TWD season that has seen dips for the still-massive ratings that the series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics pulls in, Sunday’s episode was pretty steady compared to its winter finale of November 29 last year, which had 13.9 million viewers and a demo rating of 7.02. Overall, Sunday’s show was the least-watched TWD midseason return since 12.26 million tuned in for the Season 3 return on February 10, 2013.
As is their policy, AMC is waiting until Live+3 numbers are out for both TWD and the February 15 Season 2 debut of Better Call Saul before they talk ratings. On two busy nights, that delayed viewing could tell quite the story.
Elsewhere in cable, Kobe Bryant’s last ever All-Star Game appearance scored 6.18 million viewers with a 2.7 rating. That’s a drop of 18% in total viewership from what the 2015 game drew on TNT. Maybe the NBA won’t be wanting to take on TWD next year.