AMC's hit series The Walking Dead almost beat its astonishing ratings record on Sunday night, when the show aired its long awaited Season 7 premiere, which revealed the identity of Negan's victim that was teased in the Season 6 finale cliffhanger. Early ratings number reveal that 17 million viewers tuned in for the long-awaited episode, with a whopping 8.4 ratings and 10.7 million viewers in the all-important 18-49 demographic. The episode was easily the highest-rated program among broadcast and cable shows alike.
Deadline reports that the 17 million viewers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere is up 16% from the 14.6 million viewers who tuned in for the Season 6 premiere last year. It was also up 20% in total viewers and 22% in the 18-49 demo from last year's Season 6 finale, but it fell just short of the show's all-time record of 17.3 million viewers, 11 million in 18-49 and 8.7 rating, set by the Season 5 premiere. The show managed to crush a number of high-profile competitors, like NBC's ratings juggernaut Sunday Night Football (5.3 rating) and the Season 3 premiere of Empire (4.2 rating).
The live after-show Talking Dead fared well also, with an extended 90-minute episode that was filmed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Despite unexpected rainfall that surprised the assembled cast and the 2,000 people who attended the event at Hollywood Forever, the after-show was also a ratings hit, with 7.6 million viewers, 4.6 million viewers in 18-49 and a 3.7 rating. The show featured all 11 cast members whose fate was left up in the air after the Season 6 finale, along with Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and executive producers Robert Kirkman and Scott M. Gimple.
We saw in the Episode 2 preview that fans will get their first look at The Kingdom, which is run by the new character King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). The preview showed Morgan (Lennie James) pushing Carol (Melissa McBride) around in a wheelchair, as he takes her to see King Ezekiel. Since these two are currently separated from Rick and the main group, which is now being controlled by Negan, it remains to be seen if they'll reunite at some point this season.
The show has already been renewed for Season 8, which will kick off next year with the show's 100th episode. While the network didn't announce a premiere date, the show has always debuted as part of AMC's FearFest programming lineup that airs throughout the month of October, leading into the Halloween holiday. The Walking Dead Season 7 continues Sunday, October 30 at 9 PM with The Well, only on AMC.