The fourth season of AMC's zombie apocalypse
reality show drama The Walking Dead premiered last night to, well, monster ratings. Though competing with the likes of Sunday night football, the cable show attracted an astonishing 16.1 million viewers, 10.8 million of whom were in the coveted 18-49 demographic. (Advertisers don't want to sell to young people or old people, obviously.) That's a record in many ways: It shatters the old AMC high set by The Walking Dead last season, and is now the "most-watched drama telecast in basic cable history," according to Deadline. That's a big deal.
How big a deal? Well, the show is regularly beating huge network hits like The Big Bang Theory and NCIS in demo ratings, and is getting pretty close to those shows in overall viewers. A basic cable show! The days of CableACE jokes and the like, when cable was seen as a little-watched nonentity, are not just definitively over, but the tables are even turning. How long before the traditional big four networks are themselves viewed as silly oddities? Might not be long!
We're living in a time when an A&E reality show called Duck Dynasty beats American Idol in the ratings, and now when a cable network that's only been doing original scripted material for seven years can dominate all of Sunday night television. (Well, it didn't beat football, but nothing beats football, ever.) Are we approaching the old network apocalypse? Not just yet; they still have football, of course. But if Frontline has its way and football is canceled? It could be the end of the world as we know it.