The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are proving that watching TV live is still something viewers want to do. Though DV-Rs, OnDemand and online viewing have seemingly reduced traditional ratings by allowing access long after the live event, there’s still something to be said for tuning in to the zeitgeist and wanting to experience what everyone else is. It was a big night for TV, with two of the most popular shows had important episodes: AMC’s The Walking Dead wrapped up its third season while HBO’s Game of Thrones had a much anticipated premiere. It looks like more people chose zombies over Westeros this week, but hit the jump for the numbers breakdown and what it all means.
The Walking Dead reportedly pulled 12.4 million viewers last night, 8.1 million of whom where in the coveted 18-49 demographic. For comparison, the Season Two finale pulled in about 9 million total viewers, and 10.2 million for its midseason finale in December. This number breaks the record for its Season Three midseason premiere, which clocked in at around 12.3 million.
The cable series beat out everyone so far this season, even the big heavyweight network hits like American Idol, The Voice and Modern Family.
Game of Thrones returned with 4.4 million viewers, also a record breaking number, and up 13% from the 3.9 who tuned in to the Season Two premiere last year. However, HBO estimates that over the two subsequent reruns (the show initially premiered at the same time as The Walking Dead, and since that finale was a bigger event, presumably some of the cross-over audience chose to watch a later showing of Game of Thrones), the numbers added up to something more like 6.7 million viewers, up 74% from its initial premiere in April of 2011 (these numbers do not factor in OnDemand, HBO GO or DV-R viewings … or pirated material, which Game of Thrones is known for, as the most-pirated series of 2012).
What does this all mean? Sometimes viewers do actually show up for great TV, that we do enjoy watching things live, and that cable and premium channels are setting the bar for exceptional programming, with the numbers to back it up.