How powerful a ratings champ is "The Walking Dead"? Not only did Sunday night's third-season finale beat the miniseries finale of "The Bible" on History Channel and the third-season premiere of "Game of Thrones" on HBO, but "The Walking Dead" season-ender also broke the series' own ratings record.
There were 12.4 million viewers who tuned in to see dozens of deaths and some major changes in residency on "The Walking Dead" finale, setting a new ratings record for the AMC zombie apocalypse drama. Nine million viewers watched the show's Season 2 finale, while the show's old ratings record was 12.3 million viewers for its midseason return in February.
"Two words: Grateful. 'Dead,'" AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement. "It's a joy that we get to work with such tremendous talent to make 'The Walking Dead' and 'Talking Dead' come to life for audiences that continue to engage and grow. In just three seasons, 'The Walking Dead' has become a pop-culture phenomenon, entertaining millions of passionate viewers and obliterating traditional lines between cable and broadcast television."
History Channel's finale of "The Bible" miniseries -- a two-hour installment that included the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus -- also earned respectable ratings for the end of its 10-episode run, drawing 11.7 million total viewers. Those numbers were the highest for the Mark Burnett and Roma Downey-produced series since "The Bible" premiere on March 3, which drew 13.1 million viewers.
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Meanwhile, HBO's third-season opener of "Game of Thrones" also set a new ratings record for itself, drawing 6.7 million total viewers for its 9 PM airing and two encore showings Sunday night. The 9 PM showing -- which aired against "The Walking Dead" -- drew 4.4 million viewers, also an impressive tally considering the two shows' common fanbase and, of course, the fact that "GoT" airs on premium cable vs. basic cable.
Outside the Easter Sunday cable battle, CBS was the overall ratings winner for the night, with its NCAA basketball tournament-delayed new episodes of "The Amazing Race" and "The Good Wife" averaging 10.7 million viewers, while NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" earned season-low ratings and, paired with a repeat of "The Voice," averaged 4.6 million viewers. ABC's "Red Widow" tied its previous season-low ratings number for the night, and averaged 3.6 million viewers paired with a new episode of "Revenge." Those preliminary numbers could change once final ratings are announced later Monday.
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And lest all the network honchos breathe a sigh of relief now that "The Walking Dead" is on hiatus until Season 4 premieres in October, another AMC hit, "Mad Men," debuts its sixth season in that 9 PM time slot on April 7.