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Zombie Army: 5.3 Million for Walking Dead Debut

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If you’ve been wondering if AMC’s The Walking Dead would get a second season after its six-episode debut one, you can probably relax. The zombie series ate the guts out of all previous AMC ratings records, getting 5.3 million viewers for its first airing alone. (By comparison, Rubicon debuted at around a million, and Mad Men, well established in its fourth season, was averaging just shy of 3 mil.) And the news just gets better from there—when you dig down into the demos, the pilot got 3.6 million viewers aged 18 to 49, more than any cable series debut this year (and more than most of the network competition Sunday night excepting sports).

But enough about The Walking Dead. What does this mean for Rubicon?

My guess is nothing; the low-rated though excellent conspiracy series, whose fate is still undetermined, will probably get the same answer it would have regardless. I don’t see the case, though it’s been argued, that The Walking Dead’s coup will somehow make AMC feel more expansive and decide that it can afford to keep Rubicon around.

It’s true that HBO, to an extent, does this: it has mammoth hits like True Blood and keeps on niche ones like Bored to Death. But HBO has a different, subscriber-based business model; there is more incentive to keep around, say, Eastbound and Down for the subset of fans that really want to see that show, to the extent that it drives their decision to keep the channel. AMC is bought by cable carriers, so it’s less likely that a Rubicon can enhance AMC’s carriage deals. (It may enhance AMC’s prestige; but unfortunately or fortunately, AMC is swimming in that already and may now want to focus on paying for the quality.)

I could see, on the other hand, the opposite effect: Rubicon raises AMC’s targets for what its shows can deliver, the channel now knows that it has three successful dramas returning and several more projects on the way. In this scenario, if anything The Walking Dead’s success gives the channel cover to get rid of Rubicon, especially if it is simply oversubscribed. (That Rubicon ended its season with a less-than-universally-satisfying finale probably did not help.)

In the end, though, as I said, I suspect that Rubicon continues to live or die on its own numbers and merits; what those odds are I don’t even dare to predict. Maybe I’ll have Hal crunch the numbers.

Excerpts from the AMC kvelling follow:

AMC’S THE WALKING DEAD SCORES A 3.7 HH RATING

AMC ORIGINAL SERIES GARNERS HIGHEST 18-49 DELIVERY
FOR ANY CABLE SERIES PREMIERE FOR 2010

HIGHEST PREMIERE IN AMC’S
HISTORY FOR ORIGINAL SERIES

New York, NY – November 1, 2010 – Last night’s premiere of AMC’s original series, “The Walking Dead” resulted in a 3.7 HH rating netting over 5.3 total million viewers making it the largest audience for any original series on the network. The Adults 18-49 demo garnered 3.6 million viewers making it the highest delivery for any cable series premiere for 2010.

Key Ratings Highlights for The Walking Dead:

10pm airing – 3.7 HH rating with 5.3 million total viewers;
10 pm, 11:30 pm and 1am airings – Cumed to a 6.0 HH rating with 8.1 million viewers;
Adults 25-54 – 3.1 million viewers;
Adults 18-49 – 3.6 million viewers;
Adults 18-34 – 2.1 million viewers.

“It’s a good day to be dead. We are so proud of this series, its depth of storytelling and the remarkable talent attached,” said Charlie Collier, AMC’s president. “As the network dedicated to bringing viewers the best stories on television, we are so pleased to have the opportunity with ‘The Walking Dead’ to raise the bar within this popular genre and continue our commitment to being the home of premium television on basic cable.”

“’The Walking Dead’ is that rare piece of programming that works on so many levels. It is legitimately great storytelling that is not only highly entertaining, but incredibly thought provoking as well. People who are familiar with the comic books know what’s coming, but suffice it to say, this is only the beginning of a long, intense, and powerful ride. Long live ‘The Walking Dead’,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC’s SVP of original programming, production and digital content.

AMC’s first wholly-owned original production, “The Walking Dead” premiered globally on October 31 through an unprecedented partnership with AMC and Fox International Channels. Similar to a theatrical film release, all Fox International Channels are launching the premiere episode this week, resulting in the series’ debuting in 120 countries and in 33 languages.

The Walking Dead premiered as part of AMC FEARFEST, the most highly anticipated horror movie marathon of the Halloween season. The network’s two-week marathon featured nearly 300 hours of horror-themed programming, including more than 60 films. The marathon aired October 18 through October 31, culminating with the 90-minute world premiere of “The Walking Dead.”

“The Walking Dead” is based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics. Kirkman serves as an executive producer on the project and three-time Academy Award-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) serves as writer, director and executive producer. Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk), chairman of Valhalla Motion Pictures, serves as Executive Producer. David Alpert from Circle of Confusion serves as Executive Producer. Today’s announcement also includes the addition of Charles “Chic” Eglee (Dexter, The Shield, Dark Angel) as Executive Producer.

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