The heavily marketed and highly anticipated Season 7 debut of The Walking Dead on October 23 paid off for AMC with the zombie apocalypse blockbuster’s second-highest-rated episode ever. Now more of that payoff has come with delayed viewing numbers for the No. 1 show on TV.
In Live+3 numbers, TWD hit it out of the park World Series-style with 20.8 million viewers and 13.2 million among adults 18-49, its second-best delayed viewing results ever. That’s a 22% jump in total audience from the near-record Live+Same Day results drawn by the 1-hour and 6-minute “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” episode. In the key demo, the premiere — which revealed the Season 6 finale cliffhanger of who villian Negan killed among the core survivors — was up 23% from the 10.7 million delivered by TWD’s Season 7 opener.
Of course, the top-rated TWD episode in both L+SD and L+3 remains the cable-record-breaking October 12, 2014 Season 5 premiere. In delayed viewing, that 90-minute episode had 22.372 million viewers and 14.52 million among adults 18-49.
Compared to the L+3 results of the Season 6 opener, the Season 7 TWD debut was pretty steady, with a 7% rise in total viewers and 3% uptick in the key demo.
What is truly telling of how dedicated TWD fans remain: the percentage growth in L+3 is actually down this year from the 2015 S6 opener. That indicates people wanted to watch this one in real time. Last year, the S6 TWD debut saw 33% growth in viewership over the L+SD numbers and a 36% rise in the key demo.
Having said that, Sunday’s opener tackled the top L+3 performance of Sunday Night Football this season. Compared to the best the NBC’s NFL franchise did this season so far with its September 25 airing, the TWD season opener was up 36% among 18-49s in L+3 numbers. Then again, take that victory with a grain of Walker salt as the live SNF really has L+3 as an afterthought – and also remember that TWD thrashed SNF in L+SD numbers too.
Talking Dead, which was live from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery with a somewhat rain soaked 90-minute show, rose 15% in both categories in L+3, to 8.7 million total viewers and 5.4 million adults 18-49. Like TWD’s Season 7 opener, that’s the second best the Chris Hardwick-hosted show has done in either metric.