Note to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention – Bring Eddie Murphy back briefly to the stage in Studio 8H, put Sarah Palin, John Goodman Jerry Seinfeld and more in a comedy superstar packed room with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jane Curtin on the Weekend Update anchor desk and you will leave the zombie apocalypse in the dust. Yes, facing the heavyweight comedy hydra of NBC’s Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special, AMC’s The Walking Dead took a ratings hit on Sunday with a 22% fall among adults 18-49 from its February 9 midseason return.
While the top rated show on television this season, among the key demo the AMC series pulled in a 6.2 on February 15 in its 9 – 10 PM slot with 7.9 million watching in the 18-49s. Overall, The Walking Dead had 12.3 million viewers, another stumble of 22% from the 15.8 million who tuned in last week. During the same 9 – 10 PM slot, the SNL 40 special had an 8.4 rating in the key demo with a peak of 10.68 million watching among adults 18-49. Head-to-head in overall viewers during the hour, SNL had 24.32 million watching according to final numbers from Nielsen. That’s down a bit from the most watched hour of the more than 3-hour SNL special. The opening 8 – 9 PM slot had 26.11 million viewers. Over its 8 – 11:12 PM run, the SNL 40 special had a 7.8 rating among adults 18-49 with 9.939 million in the demo and 23.1 million viewers in the 8 – 11:30 PM slot.
Coming off a loss to the Grammys in last week’s S5 midseason return, those results are a far cry from the lambasting the series based on the Robert Kirkman created comic delivered to NBC on the comparable Sunday last year. On February 16, 2014 The Walking Dead took the Gold medal against the network’s Olympics coverage with 6.8 rating compared to the 5.6 the Sochi Games got in the 9 – 10 slot. Overall, NBC’s Winter Games coverage that night pulled in a melting 4.8 rating over its primetime broadcast.
Of course, Live + 3 numbers could provide a new perspective on February 15 when they are released. With WD a powerhouse in time shifting viewing, it wouldn’t be unlikely that a lot of the demo that watched SNL 40 were recording the AMC show. To put that in some context, the Live + 3 results for the February 9 midseason return saw a rise of 30% from the Live + Same Day total viewership numbers – which were up against the slumping Grammys. Live + 3 numbers for the February WD also saw a 32% jump among the 18-49s and a 31% among the 25-54s. While even with the Season 4 midseason return in Live + SD, last week’s WD’s Live + 3 results were up a small 2%, 1% and 11% among total viewers, 18-49 and 25-54s compared to the February 9, 2014 broadcast.
After a record breaking first half of its Season 5, including the all-time series high of the October 12 season debut last year, The Walking Dead will face another tough slog next week when it goes up against the Oscars on ABC. Last year, the March 2 episode of The Walking Dead had 12.61 million total viewers and a 6.4 rating among the 18-49s compared to the 43.7 million who watched the 86th Academy Awards with its 13.1 rating.
Having kicked the butt of the NFL and NBC’s once invulnerable Sunday Night Football in the demo a record breaking total of five times in the fall when the two were facing off on Sundays, The Walking Dead will pretty much be master of all its surveys for the rest of its current season after the Oscars.