Since it was announced, there was little doubt AMC’s spin-off to its mega hit The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, would find an audience. The only question was, just how big was that audience going to be? Well, pretty big as it turns out, but not as big as the mothership… for now.
According to the official overnight ratings released by AMC, the series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead notched 10.1 million live/same day viewers, which just so happens to make it the most watched series premiere in cable history. To put it in perspective, the most watched episode of Breaking Bad, the series finale, scored a hair above that at 10.28 million.
AMC continued by stating in its press release:
"…the #1 series premiere in cable television history for total viewers and all key demos. The episode delivered 6.3 million adults 18-49."
Of course, AMC is playing a little fast and loose with the wording here, as it did for the premiere of Better Call Saul. The 18-49 viewership isn’t measured in actual numbers, but demo scores. So, as explained by Vulture reporter Joe Adalian on Twitter:
*it's currently a 4.9 A18-49 rating for #FearTheWalkingDead premiere.
— Joe Adalian (@TVMoJoe) August 24, 2015
4.9 is nothing to scoff at. Most broadcast shows can barely crack a 3.0 rating these days, and last season’s ratings smasher, Empire, was typically scoring around 5.0-7.0 across the season. So no, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting at 4.9, but it’s certainly not the 9.0 its parent series sometimes averages for high-profile episodes such as premieres and finales. Given that, the new question AMC may well be asking behind closed doors is, can Fear the Walking Dead achieve that status? The answer is: probably.
The reason AMC ordered two seasons for Fear before the first had even premiered is because the network knows how viewership of its shows work. AMC series are often low rated at first, but then a spike in viewership typically takes place after the audience engages in a little off-season of Netflix binging watching. It happened to Breaking Bad, it happened to The Walking Dead, and it will most likely happen here. Of course, Fear the Walking Dead is starting at a much higher level than either of those shows ever did. On its series premiere, The Walking Dead only notched a 2.7 18-49 score in comparison.
Fear the Walking Dead is a smash hit by all accounts, and it’s hard to imagine it losing that viewership across the next five weeks. There’s something about this franchise that transcendes mediocre reviews and non-stop think pieces. The American television viewing public have spoken, and they’ve spoken loudly. They want their zombies, and they want them now more than ever.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.