TV Ratings: 'Better Call Saul,' 'Walking Dead' Return Higher

Better Call Saul S05E01 Still - Publicity - H 2020
Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Two of AMC's biggest shows returned Sunday to fairly healthy ratings: The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul each topped their most recent outings in total viewers and the cabler's key demographics.

"Recent" is maybe not the best term to apply to Saul, as its fifth-season premiere came more than 16 months after the close of season four in October 2018. Still, the Breaking Bad prequel delivered its largest same-day audience — 1.6 million viewers — since the fourth-season premiere a year and a half ago. Sunday's episode was up 4 percent in viewers over the season four finale.

The premiere's demographic numbers also ticked up: the 638,000 adults 18-49 who tuned in represented a 4 percent bump over the season four finale, and Saul rose 10 percent in adults 25-54 with 781,000 viewers in that age group.

Better Call Saul did decline about 10 percent in viewers from its season four premiere, but Sunday's debut came in ahead of its same-day averages for last season (1.49 million viewers and about 570,000 in the 18-49 demo). That's no small accomplishment, considering that some other high-profile cable dramas, including American Horror Story, The Purge and, yes, The Walking Dead are down by more than 20 percent year to year. 

As for The Walking Dead, its midseason premiere drew 3.5 million viewers, the most for the show since the season 10 opener in October. It grew by 9 percent over the same-day viewership for the fall finale (3.21 million) and rose by double digits in adults 25-54 (2 million, up 15 percent) and adults 18-49 (1.6 million, up 17 percent).

For all The Walking Dead's ratings declines over the past few seasons, the show has not given up its title as the top series on ad-supported cable. Both it and Better Call Saul will grow substantially with delayed and multi-platform viewing; in the first half of its season, The Walking Dead posted gains of 64 percent in total viewers and 75 percent in adults 18-49 with a week of DVR and on-demand viewing.