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Following in some especially big footsteps, The Walking Dead spinoff Fear the Walking Dead launched Sunday night to equally auspicious ratings.
Ahead of the time-shifting statistics that AMC will no doubt tout on Friday, same-day stats for Fear have the companion series’ inaugural 90-minute outing averaging a boffo 10.1 million viewers.
The significance of that number cannot be overemphasized. Not only does it blow past any other series premiere previously aired on the network, it stands as the most watched launch in cable history. The Walking Dead first set a high bar for AMC in 2010 with its 5.35 million premiere haul, not outdone until early 2015 when the debut of Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul nabbed 6.88 million viewers after a lead-in from The Walking Dead. (After its strong start, Better Call Saul settled in live viewership and ended up averaging 5.9 million viewers in live-plus-3 stats.)
Fear‘s promising start furthers the positive AMC narrative of 2015. Despite a relatively bare cupboard of originals, and the exit of network flagship Mad Men, its two spinoffs now mark the biggest cable launches of the year.
And like its parent series, still the highest-rated show on TV, Fear also skewed very young. Among the targeted adults 18-49, the episode brought in 6.3 million.
The Walking Dead fan base is one that every TV studio and network has tried to cater to since it began its huge rise. The show has done an exceptional job of luring live viewers — even as more and more audiences opt for DVR. The fifth season, its most recent, launched to a personal-best 17.3 million viewers last October. The season maintained massive night-of viewership for all 16 episodes, only dipping below the 13 million mark on one occasion. Needless to say, its audience is even more formidable with time-shifting.
Fear‘s first season is emulating the original’s short six-episode order. Unsurprisingly, AMC has already committed to a 15-episode sophomore follow-up, which (also like its parent) will be split in half.
And, per usual, Talking Dead also benefited from the numbers. A special outing of the talk show, preceding Fear and focused on the sixth season of The Walking Dead, pulled 4.2 million viewers and 2.5 million adults 18-49.
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