The zombies on AMC's "The Walking Dead" are relentless. The series returned for its fourth season Sunday with its biggest audience ever and is easily the most popular drama on television among young viewers this season.
The 16.1 million people who watched the AMC series Sunday shattered the show's previous record of 12.4 million, which was set for April's final episode of the third season, the Nielsen company said.
An estimated 10.4 million of those viewers were ages 18 to 49, which is the demographic sweet spot for those who sell television advertising. No broadcast network drama came close. NBC's "Blacklist," with 3.9 million viewers in that demographic last week, came in second. The most popular broadcast drama so far this season was the Sept. 24 showing of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC, with just under 6 million young viewers.
The discussion series that followed the premiere, "The Talking Dead," had 5.1 million viewers with 3.3 million in the young demographic, Nielsen said.
AMC President Charlie Collier credited series creator Robert Kirkman and his deputies for the strong showing. "Thanks to them, the dead have never been more alive," Collier said.
"NCIS" on CBS, with 18.3 million viewers, was the week's most popular drama. Only 3.6 million of those viewers were in the young demographic, making the show less valuable to many advertisers.
Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly made a strong debut in the network's prime-time lineup last week. "The Kelly File" averaged 2.3 million viewers, or 38 percent more than Sean Hannity had been averaging in the 9 p.m. Eastern time slot since the beginning of July. Kelly was second only to Fox's Bill O'Reilly in popularity on cable news last week.
Despite all the new fall programming, last week's ratings indicated what truly rules in the season: five of the 13 most popular programs were either football games, football highlights shows or a football pregame show.
CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 9.2 million viewers. NBC had 8.4 million, Fox had 7.5 million, ABC had 7 million, Univision had 3.2 million, the CW had 1.7 million, Telemundo had 1.14 million and ION Television had 1.05 million.
TBS was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 4.2 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 2.7 million, AMC had 2.2 million, The Disney Channel had 2 million and Fox News Channel had 1.8 million.
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.2 million viewers. ABC's "World News" was second with 7.3 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.4 million viewers.
For the week of Oct. 7-13, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Washington vs. Dallas, NBC, 22.07 million; "NCIS," CBS, 18.33 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 17.64 million; "The Walking Dead," AMC, 16.11 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 16.02 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 14.84 million; "The Voice" (Monday), NBC, 14.64 million; "The OT," Fox, 14.11 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 13 million; "Football Night in America," NBC, 11.78 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.