TV Ratings: 'Walking Dead' Bloodbath Matches All-Time Audience High

The Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere - Negan and Glenn - H Publicity 2016
Gene Page/AMC

Seven seasons in, The Walking Dead seems to have an awful lot of life left in it.

TV's highest-rated series, which returned to AMC on Sunday night with a controversial cliffhanger to address, essentially tied its all-time ratings high with an average 17 million viewers tuning in on premiere night. That's only off a hair from the standing recordholder (season five kicked off with 17.2 million viewers in 2014).

Nielsen's live-plus-same-day ratings paint an equally favorable picture in the key demographic. The Walking Dead, already renewed for a eighth season, averaged a 8.4 rating among adults 18-49. That's more than double the same-day score of any broadcast scripted series this season. (It's still slightly shy of its best-ever mark, an 8.7 rating for that same 2014 episode.)

Interest in the episode was no doubt driven by the summer-long question of which series regular — or, as it turned out, regulars — the zombie drama planned to kill off. The large live tune-in likely means comparatively smaller time-shifting for the episode, which has recouped more and more viewers from DVR, and a drop-off next week. But there's no question that these ratings are especially good news for the aging franchise.

In terms of growth from the sixth season, viewership was up 16 percent from the comparable episode last October and 20 percent from the finale. Improvement in the key demo was 16 percent from the last premiere and 18 percent from the finale. It's also worth mentioning that Sunday's episode ranks as a best-ever among adults 25-54 with an 8.7 rating.

Good news also extended to AMC companion series Talking Dead. The talker, which aired an expanded 90-minute episode with half the cast, averaged series records of 7.6 million viewers and a 3.7 rating among adults 18-49.

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