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Cable hits rake in big ratings Easter Sunday with ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘The Bible’ and ‘Game of Thrones’
On a Sunday night when most broadcast nets were busy airing reruns, “The Walking Dead” season three finale was very much alive with viewers, pulling in a series’ record of 12.4 million for the 8 p.m. (Central) airing.
Not only was AMC’s zombie-fest the No. 1 program for the night in total viewers, it also took top spot among folks 18- to 49-years-old. The powerful, hour-long finale (R.I.P. you know who) gleaned 8.1 million viewers in that advertiser-coveted demographic.
“Two words: Grateful. ‘Dead,’” said AMC president Charlie Collier in a statement. “In just three seasons, ‘The Walking Dead’ has become a pop-culture phenomenon, entertaining millions of passionate viewers and obliterating traditional lines between cable and broadcast television.”
According to AMC, “The Walking Dead” averaged more viewers this season in the key demo (7.027 million) than any series on television, including CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” which averages 6.787 million. The once almighty “American Idol” is averaging 5.55 million in the key demo this season for its Wednesday night performance shows.
“The Walking Dead” wasn’t the only highly-rated cable show to wrap up its season on Sunday. The 10-part “The Bible” mini-series on History logged 11.7 million total viewers (3.8 million in the key demo) for its two-hour ending. (Here’s where the math gets a bit fuzzy: A History press release boasted that during the second half of the two-hour finale,
“The Bible” bested its head-to-head competitor “The Walking Dead” with 12.33 million viewers compared to 12.29 for “The Walking Dead,” but a press release from AMC puts its show’s audience at 12.4 million, which means it would have edged out “The Bible.”)
As for new beginnings, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” launched its third season Sunday night to record high numbers for the series. The original 8 p.m. (Central) airing averaged 4.4 million viewers, outperforming the previous high of 4.2 million from last season’s finale. That’s up 13 percent compared to last season’s premiere. The show aired three times Sunday night, getting a collective 6.7 million viewers.
“Game of Thrones” co-creator D.B. Weiss said in an interview last week that there was a time he would have cringed at the prospect of going up against the season finale of “The Walking Dead,” but that’s no longer the case.
“Once upon a time that situation would have been a nightmare train wreck that both sides would have really wanted to avoid,” Weiss said. “But the way people watch television now is so different. I don’t think there’s a single person in the world who wants to see both shows who is not going to see both shows. By the time you get to the end of the week it will have all washed out.”
Indeed, first-run ratings tell an increasingly smaller part of the story. “The Walking Dead” typically adds at least 3 million additional viewers when you factor in people who’ve seen the show within three days of its premiere run. And “Game of Thrones” had an average gross audience of 11.6 million last season when you factor in repeats, HBO On Demand, HBO GO and DVR playback.