The ridiculous success of AMC Networks' (NASDAQ:AMCX) Fear the Walking Dead on Sunday night -- shattering viewership records for a show's premiere on cable -- naturally comes as good news for the network's shareholders. A hit show translates into juicy rates on television commercials, secures an audience for the balance of a night's programming block, and makes AMC an indispensable part of any cable or satellite television package.
Attracting a huge audience for the zombie spinoff should also provide a fair degree of comfort to rival media networks and pay TV providers. Media companies, AMC included, took a big hit earlier this month on fears that folks were walking away from cable and satellite television plans at an alarming rate. The show's success in attracting 10.13 million viewers, according to ratings tracker Nielsen, proves that there are still plenty of couch potatoes more than happy to catch a show when a network dictates.
There were plenty of brilliant moves by AMC Networks in helping the show be a hit.
- The very subject matter of the show -- an origin story of the zombie apocalypse from AMC's popular The Walking Dead told from the West Coast perspective -- was going to be compelling for fans of The Walking Dead. The previous cable premiere record was also a spinoff: AMC's Better Call Saul that spun off from Breaking Bad.
- AMC spent all of Sunday leading up to the show airing a marathon of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. The sixth season starts in a few weeks after Fear the Walking Dead completes its six-week run.
- A one-hour talk show discussing the fifth season of The Walking Dead, and offering sneak peaks of the new season, was wedged in between the fifth season's finale and the debut of Fear the Walking Dead.
With so many factors setting up the show for success, is it any wonder that it broke records at a time when investors are bailing out of media companies because they fear that things like this would never happen? Folks are still turning out for the more popular programming, even if there's a growing incentive to stream it later on a viewer's own terms.
It's also worth pointing out that Sunday night's debut drew nearly twice as many homes as the most popular show on network television. That's important, given that a lot of cord cutters are installing HD antennas to get over-the-air channels for free to go along with their streaming video consumption.
Network television was supposed to benefit from folks ditching pay channels, but here we find AMC once again outdrawing CBS, NBC, and ABC. If it's compelling television -- and if a cable network is as savvy as AMC Networks in milking and marketing a property just right -- cord cutters won't be as big a problem as media executives and media stock investors feared earlier this month.