The departure of The Walking Dead and the return of Game of Thrones has resulted in epic U.S. ratings.
Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead earned AMC’s zombie drama its best ratings since the show’s launch on Halloween night in 2010. The season-three finale garnered 12.4-million U.S. viewers, with an estimated 8.1-million viewers falling within the coveted 18-49 viewing demographic.
The season finale brought the grisly demise of a popular female character and set the scene for this fall’s fourth season with a busload of new characters introduced into the prison refuge run by survivalist sheriff Rick Grimes, played by British actor Andrew Lincoln.
“In just three seasons, The Walking Dead has become a pop-culture phenomenon,” said AMC president Charlie Collier in a statement. “It’s entertaining millions of passionate viewers and obliterating traditional lines between cable and broadcast television.”
HBO’s Game of Thrones, meanwhile, also reached its largest-ever U.S. audience with 4.4-million viewers tuning in for Sunday's third-season return. Factoring in HBO’s two same-day repeat broadcasts, the medieval fantasy series earned an impressive 6.7-million viewers for the premiere, an increase of 13 per cent from its first episode last year.
The new season of Thrones came with the arrival of a massive lumbering giant and the unexpected alliance between warlord Mance Ryder (Ciaran Hinds) and the heroic Jon Snow (Kit Harrington).
In Canada, Game of Thrones airs on HBO Canada, which does not release ratings figures. The Walking Dead is available here only on the originating U.S. cable feed of AMC, which does not measure Canadian viewing audiences.