'Walking Dead' Season 3 Premiere Shatters Basic Cable Ratings Record

Lori Grimes
Gene Page/AMC

"She's pregnant, and they don't know whose child it is and they have to figure it out. What do you do? They can't get divorced, and how do you repair that marriage in front of everybody?" showrunner Glen Mazzara previews of Lori's struggle this season. "It's such a tight group. It affects everybody in the group, that strife within that marriage."

After breaking its own record in three key demos with its second season finale, AMC's The Walking Dead opened its third frame by continuing the trend.

Sunday's season three premiere collected a whopping 10.9 million total viewers, making it the highest-rated episode in series history, up more than 50 percent from its record-breaking season two premiere. The episode now stands as the biggest telecast for any drama series in basic cable history among total viewers. In the key advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo, the 9 p.m. broadcast collected 7.3 million viewers, with 6.1 million among adults 25-54, all series bests.

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Factoring in broadcasts at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight, the series based on the comics by Robert Kirkman collected 15.2 million total viewers over the course of the night.

"Thank you to the fans for making The Walking Dead such a tremendous success. We are honored and humbled that television's largest adult audience resides on AMC. So many people on both sides of the camera worked tirelessly on this project, and I thank and congratulate each of them for their amazing contribution," AMC president Charlie Collier said Monday.

March's season two finale drew 9 million total viewers, including 6 million in 18-49, 5.3 million in 25-54 and 3.2 million in 18-34. The demo numbers topped basic-cable records set by February's midseason premiere.

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Dish subscribers, meanwhile, were shut out of the episode due to its carriage dispute with AMC. The cable network's online stream of the episode -- created specifically for Dish subscribers -- crashed due to overwhelming demand. The premiere is now streaming AMCTV.com (or watch the episode, below).

Some ratings highlights from the series:

• Season 3 premiere, 10/14/12: 10.9 million total viewers, 7.3 million in 18-49, 6.1 million in 25-54

• Season 2 finale, 3/18/12: 9 million total viewers, 6 million in 18-49, 5.3 million in 25-54*

• Season 2 midseason premiere, 2/12/12: 8.1 million total, 5.4 million* in 18-49, 4.4 million* in 25-54

• Season 2 premiere, 10/17/11: 7.3 million total, 4.8 million* in 18-49, 4.2 million* in 25-54

• Season 2 midseason finale, 11/27/11: 6.6 million total, 4.5 million in 18-49, 3.9 million in 25-54

• Season 1 finale, 12/5/10: 6 million total, 4 million in 18-49, 3.5 million in 25-54

• Season 1 premiere, 10/31/10: 5.4 million total viewers, 2.7 million in 18-49

* Record at the time

Meanwhile, Chris Hardwicke's Walking Dead postshow The Talking Dead was also up year-over-year, opening to 2.1 million total viewers (up 85 percent vs. its series premiere last year), and notching 1.5 million in the 18-49 demo (up 92 percent). 

If you missed the Walking Dead season three opener, watch the episode below.