As a spinoff/companion series to one of the most popular shows on TV, Fear the Walking Dead not only had the potential to bring in The Walking Dead’s massive built-in audience, but also to capitalize on it by drawing in viewers who were more interested in seeing the origins of a zombie outbreak than solely the after-effects. And holy shit, it did just that, and Fear the Walking Dead can now boast the biggest cable premiere of all time. There may be zombies roaming the L.A. streets, but this series is definitely alive.
So just how many people does it take to make a pilot the most-watched cable debut? 10.1 million viewers, amazingly enough. And the best part for AMC is that over 6.3 million of that total fits into the 18-49 demographic, giving the show an almost unheard of 4.9 demo rating, which is also a new record for cable premieres. So not only did it exceed almost everyone’s expectations, but this first episode completely smashed them into a pulp, much like some of the walkers’ brains we’ll presumably be seeing later in the season. And this is just with the Live+Same Day numbers, according to Deadline. I can’t imagine how much those initial results will jump by the time next week’s episode gets here.
The obvious thing to do here is to compare this success to that of some Walking Dead episodes. Although the flagship series’ premiere was highly anticipated, people weren’t quite sure what to expect, and it brought in just over half of Fear’s numbers, with 5.3 million total and a 2.7 demo rating back in 2010. Season 5 for The Walking Dead has been the most successful one yet, with the premiere being watched by 17.3 million viewers (8.7 demo rating) and the finale netting a 15.8 million-strong audience (8.2 demo rating). In comparison to AMC’s other record-breaking debut Better Call Saul, which was watched by 6.9 million people, Fear the Walking Dead had no problem blowing past that.
Fear the Walking Dead can also boast that it brought in more viewers than an NFL game, as it beat out the same 90-minute chunk of Fox’s contest between the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams. Granted, the NFL is just going through preseason at the moment, and that wasn’t so high-profile a game, but pro football is still a ratings juggernaut no matter what time of year it is. The Walking Dead also beat out a few regular season Sunday Night Football telecasts last year.
Critics and audiences have been mixed on feelings about Fear the Walking Dead – I liked the first two episodes’ slow burn approach – so there’s no telling just how many people will continue coming back week after week. But even if these numbers dropped, it would still be one of the most watched shows on cable.
Now that we know how big this show is, it makes me even more curious to see what kind of numbers The Walking Dead’s Season 6 premiere earns in October. What did you guys think of Fear the Walking Dead?