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Whenever Better Call Saul wrapped its fourth season in 2018, the Breaking Bad spinoff remained one of cable's most popular shows, even though its Monday-night viewership didn't exactly dwarf its linear TV competition. After a 16-month hiatus, Season 5 finally arrived on AMC, completely with cameos and more surprises, but it was on a special night. Before its Monday night time-slot premiere, Better Call Saul debuted on Sunday evening to capitalize on the winter premiere of The Walking Dead Season 10. So how did that plan work out?
S'all good for Bob Odenkirk & Co., although the circumstances could be slightly more positive, all things considered. For its long-awaited premiere, Better Call Saul brought in just under 1.6 million viewers accounting for Sunday's Live + Same Day results. That total unfortunately isn't as high as the Season 4 premiere tally, which topped off at 1.76 million viewers, but "Magic Man" did indeed top every successive Sunday night total for Season 4, including that hectic finale (1.52 million).
When stacked up against other shows airing on Sunday night, Better Call Saul sits somewhere in the middle of the field, which is hardly something to scoff at, considering the competition. For instance, according to Showbuzz Daily, Saul's audience was less than half of the 3.51 million viewers that tuned in for The Walking Dead's sexed-up return. (TWD itself bounced back from some series-low totals in the front half of Season 10.) The only other scripted cable show that topped Saul's totals was When Calls the Heart's Season 7 premiere (2.14 million), though unscripted shows such as Real Housewives of Atlanta (1.86 million) and 90 Day Fiancé (2.58 million) also came out ahead.
Better Call Saul did have a bigger advantage over most other cable shows (scripted and not) when it came to the key 18-49 age demographic. Saul earned a 0.49 demo rating, which was the fifth-highest in all of cable. In comparison, TV's biggest demo audience on Sunday night was tuned into The Walking Dead (1.2 rating).
The stats for Better Call Saul's Monday night time slot premiere still haven't been reported at the time of this writing, so we're not yet sure how those numbers will compare to those of the Season 5 premiere.
For Better Call Saul fans, those totals may not look extremely impressive, but there are two caveats that are crucial to understanding the show's true successes. The first is that Better Call Saul's viewership actually rose when compared to Season 4's average. Not by very many percentage points, but considering just about every other show on TV faced marked viewership declines in the 16 months between Saul seasons, any rise can be seen as monolithic.
The high-tension drama's second secret weapon is its delayed viewing totals. When Live + 7 Day totals are tallied, Better Call Saul's numbers skyrocket, relatively speaking. In 2018, for instance, Saul was the #1 show for time-shifted viewing, with first-night totals rising by 429% on average. If the Season 5 premiere follows suit, it could end up with around 6.3 million viewers by next week. In comparison, the next highest average in 2018 was The Sinner's 352% jump in delayed-viewing totals.
For now, Better Call Saul doesn't seem to have anything to worry about when it comes to audience numbers, and AMC execs are likely happy that Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn and the rest are capable of maintaining the show's fanbase even after more than a year off the air.
If you haven't already, be sure to tune into live episodes of Better Call Saul when they hit AMC on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m.