AMC's mid-season premiere of "The Walking Dead" scored record ratings and a series best in total viewers, despite going head-to-head with the Grammy Awards in the Sunday night time slot.
Coming off a two-month hiatus, the zombie apocalypse drama attracted 12.3 million viewers during its initial 9 p.m. broadcast of its mid-season three premiere, making it the most-watched episode in the series' history.
Previously, the highest-rated episode of the series was the season three fall premiere in October, which nabbed 10.9 million viewers, according to the Hollywood Reporter
Sunday night's episode drew 7.7 million viewers in the desirable 18-49 demographic — the highest key-demographic viewership totals for any telecast in basic cable history, according to AMC. That equals a 6.1 rating, more than each of last week's "American Idol" telecasts, to put it in perspective.
"When you look at numbers like this, the first thing that comes to mind is how grateful we are to the fans of this show," Charlie Collier, AMC’s president, said in a press release. "They embrace 'The Walking Dead' in a way that we wanted to believe was possible but we never take for granted. The cast and crew put everything they have into making this show. They're a phenomenally talented group who truly give their all. We congratulate everyone involved."
The ratings were even more impressive, considering the show was pitted against the Grammy Awards, which had 28.4 million viewers tuning in to the CBS broadcast.
Media commentators speculate that fans of the show tuned in to see the on-screen storyline play out amidst backstage drama. Executive producer and showrunner Glen Mazzara announced in December he will not return for the recently renewed fourth season.
"The Walking Dead" is based on a comic book of the same name. The show chronicles the life of a man who awakens one day to find the world dominated by flesh-eating zombie walkers. He must find his family and any other survivors along the way.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on AMC.
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