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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 17, 2012

AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Shatters Previous Cable Records

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

It was generally accepted, even before the release of the premiere of the third season of the AMC dramatic series "The Walking Dead", that when the premiere landed it was going to be a big deal. Now the numbers have returned, and the numbers are telling in their own right as the premiere of the third season of "The Walking Dead" landed fully 10.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched drama on basic cable. Ever.

The audience for the third season premiere actually increased over 50 percent from last season, and cleaned up in the prized 18 - 49 demographic with 7.3 million viewers in that segment. What's more unusual is that the wrap-up show, "Talking Dead", that follows after every episode itself kept almost 20 percent of the viewership to an impressive 2.1 million viewers. This represents an 85 percent jump for the wrap-up show alone.

Image via www.amctv.com

When the midnight encore is included, meanwhile, the end result is even higher at 15.2 million viewers total over both shows. Perhaps most unsettling of all, this record-setting result was achieved entirely without the support of Dish Network, which is still not airing AMC, nor its associated networks, following recent issues of costs that led to Dish Network dropping AMC.

This in turn reveals quite a telling portrait of what's going on in cable today. One single program is pulling incredible amounts of viewership. Dish Network is losing out on a ratings gold mine, even as it asserts that the network isn't worth keeping due to low viewership outside of the highly popular Sunday night dramas AMC runs like "Mad Men", "Breaking Bad", "Hell on Wheels" and of course "The Walking Dead".

 It looks as though the effects of cable cutting are starting to show up on cable networks. No one wants AMC--the ratings and Dish Network's response to that make that clear--until Sunday night, when suddenly everyone wants AMC. People don't want networks, or even packages; they want the individual shows. This explains how Dish Network can justify tossing AMC out on its ear even as they produce some of the highest-rated content on television, a move that would normally be regarded as corporate suicide.

People want the content. The network, the package...these things are just delivery vectors for the content. People will go after the content in the fashion that is most judicious and expeditious for them to reach it, which is why things like Netflix and Hulu (News - Alert) Plus are gaining ground in the fashion they are. Cable cutting is starting to gain ground, even if the exact methods aren't exactly taking off in a similar manner across the board.

Either way, though, there are a whole lot of people watching The Walking Dead, but whether they'll continue to do so on AMC, on television, or not remains to be seen.

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