AMC's The Walking Dead continues to solidify its place as the season's best-performing series in the key adults 18-49 demographic.
Sunday's midseason finale collected 10.5 million total viewers in its initial broadcast at 9 p.m., slightly less than October's third-season premiere but up 58 percent compared with season two's midseason finale.
In the adults 18-49 demo, the episode scored 6.9 million total viewers, up 54 percent vs. season two's midseason finale. Overall, the series beat all of broadcast and cable fare in the demo. When factoring in Live+7 returns, the zombie drama adds another 3.4 million viewers a week. Season three of the series, from showrunner Glen Mazzara, is averaging as the No. 1 ad-supported drama series in basic cable history among total viewers, adults 18-49, 25-54, 18-35, men 18-49, men 25-54 and men 18-34.
While an official fourth-season renewal has not been announced, it's more of a when than an if as AMC opened a contest in late September offering lucky blood donors a chance to win a trip to the set of The Walking Dead season four -- ahead of its October return.
October's premiere scored 10.9 million total viewers, making it the highest-rated episode in series history, up more than 50 percent from its record-breaking season two premiere. The episode previously stood as the biggest telecast for any drama series in basic cable history among total viewers. In the key advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo, the 9 p.m. broadcast collected 7.3 million viewers, with 6.1 million among adults 25-54 -- all series bests at the time.
Factoring in broadcasts at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight, the series based on the comics by Robert Kirkman collected 15.2 million total viewers during the course of the night.
“Representing both the studio and the network as AMC does on this project, I speak for so many when I say 'thank you and congratulations' to everyone involved,” AMC president Charlie Collier said. “The records that The Walking Dead shattered today represent an enormous achievement of which we are so proud."
Some ratings highlights from the series:
• Season 3 midseason finale, Dec. 2, 2012: 10.5 million total viewers, 6.9 million in 18-49, 6 million in 25-54
• Season 3 premiere, Oct. 14, 2012: 10.9 million total viewers, 7.3 million in 18-49, 6.1 million in 25-54*
• Season 2 finale, March 18, 2012: 9 million total viewers, 6 million in 18-49, 5.3 million in 25-54*
• Season 2 midseason premiere, Feb. 12, 2012: 8.1 million total, 5.4 million* in 18-49, 4.4 million* in 25-54
• Season 2 premiere, Oct. 16, 2011: 7.3 million total, 4.8 million* in 18-49, 4.2 million* in 25-54
• Season 2 midseason finale, Nov. 27, 2011: 6.6 million total, 4.5 million in 18-49, 3.9 million in 25-54
• Season 1 finale, Dec. 5 2010: 6 million total, 4 million in 18-49, 3.5 million in 25-54
• Season 1 premiere, Oct. 31, 2010: 5.4 million total viewers, 2.7 million in 18-49
* Record at the time
Meanwhile, Chris Hardwicke's Walking Dead postshow The Talking Dead collected 2.2 million total viewers at 11 p.m., up from the 2.1 million its season three premiere scored. During Sunday's episode, Hardwicke announced that the series would move up to immediately follow Walking Dead and expand from 30 minutes to an hour starting in February. (Kevin Smith's Comic Book Men will move to Thursdays as the cable net launches an unscripted block for the night.)
The Walking Dead and Talking Dead return Sunday, Feb. 10, on AMC.