As many of you have probably heard by now, Fear the Walking Dead premiered on AMC on Sunday and handily obliterated cable premiere ratings records.
FTWD’s 90-minute premiere garnered a staggering 10.1 million live/same day viewers. 6.3 million of these viewers fell under the coveted 18-49 demo, also breaking the record for the demo for a cable premiere, previously held by another AMC spin-off (or “companion series,” as AMC calls them), Better Call Saul (4.4 million). These demo ratings are also better than anything The Walking Dead managed in seasons one and two. It looks like FTWD has the same live-viewing appeal that has made the flagship series so attractive to advertisers.
As linear viewing continues its secular decline, a property – and a new one at that – that can command such a strong opening is encouraging for advertisers who continue to look for the most effective ways to spend media dollars. Of course, FTWD is riding the coattails of its massively successful flagship show, but for any new content to break so many records is still extremely promising. It is also looking like it did well on social (as we’ll break down below), thanks to an already-invested audience eager to engage. Considering FTWD dethroned its fellow spin off Better Call Saul, this is probably going to make other spin offs start to look very appealing to advertisers and networks alike.
Advertisers who managed to snag a spot during the premiere must be thrilled. AdAge reported over a week ago that the 30-second spots AMC held back for the scatter market sold out very quickly, and at rates that were within the neighborhood of the original.
People Like Zombies. They Really, Really Like Them.
Fear the Walking Dead’s pilot also wasn’t just a ratings behemoth; it was a social powerhouse too. Nielsen Social data indicates that FTWD posted stronger numbers than any non-sports event during the week. In fact, only two sports events outperformed FTWD: Sunday’s and Friday’s NFL Preseason Football games, with unique audiences of 3,952 and 3,717 respectively.
AMC is capitalizing on its flagship show’s popularity and hoping that this will translate into not only high ratings, but high social engagement from its fans. AMC has unlocked the first episode for viewing online without a login for 100 days, created a Fear the Walking Dead two-screen experience, and actively encouraged engagement from its fans.
We dove deeper into these Twitter numbers using Canvs, a qualitative social TV platform which analyzes conversation as captured by Nielsen (disclosure: BRaVe is an investor in Canvs). The data there also indicates that the show’s audience had high emotional reactions to the show.
Of the roughly 247,000 tweets about the show that occurred around its live airing, 38.9% were emotional reactions, with “excited”, “love”, and “good” accounting for over 60% of these. This is relative to a 32.2% reaction rate for Better Call Saul’s premiere, and 30.2% for The Walking Dead’s season five opener.
All to say: social audiences are already pretty committed to FTWD, and most of the talk has been positive.
A show with high emotional investment is good news for advertisers across the board. This bet on high audience investment, in addition to the promise of behemoth ratings, is what probably had advertisers beating doors down to get in on FTWD. Several integrations with T-Mobile, for instance, ran throughout the airing, across their second screen content, and on FTWD’s social accounts. This has given them access to an audience that is not only dominated by the most desirable demo for advertisers, but also much more likely to engage with their content.
AMC isn’t releasing their Live+3 numbers until Friday (and it will be interesting to see how much of the viewing will be time-shifted, given its massive live audience), and we’ve got five episodes left in the season to see if the show grows or loses its audience, but it’s looking like Fear the Walking Dead is another spinoff that will pay off.