By now, I'm sure most of you have heard that AMC's The Walking Dead is the highest rated basic-cable television program in history, especially after its record breaking broadcast of the season 4 premiere, which was watched by over 16 million viewers.
What is really special about The Walking Dead's Nielsen ratings is not only the sheer volume of people that have been watching, but also who has been watching the show. Following that, the demographic shift which is typical for television programs has not followed the traditional course as the show has carried on.
Allow me to explain. First of all, what is important to television executive types is not necessarily having the most viewers. What is important is having the most viewers of a specific demographic: those aged 18-49. For example, in the 2007-2008 season, Grey's Anatomy was able to charge $419 000 per 30 second commercial, while CSI charged $248 000 - almost half. This, despite the fact that on average, CSI had 16.62 million viewers, and Grey's Anatomy had 15.92. The missing variable is the 18-49 age group, which Grey's Anatomy did exceptionally well in, and which television executives instinctively lust after like, well, zombies.
The Walking Dead currently has the highest rating for this demographic. And what is more interesting:
Typically, shows that become hits attract their youngest viewers during the first few seasons. Then, as that audience ages a bit and viewers a few years younger seek out newer fare, the average age begins an inevitable climb toward the upper reaches of the demo.
Typically. During it's premiere season, The Walking Dead's median age viewer was 33.8, and now, after the 4th season is well under way, is 33.2. Also keep in mind that the average overall audience for the show has more than doubled since then. Meaning a huge number of those who came late to the party are twentysomethings - the hardest demographic to catch as more and more people move away from broadcast television to the internet.
What does this all mean? That those at the helm of The Walking Dead are likely swimming in pools of money, and spraying champagne around the room as they realize the money may have just begun to come piling in.
Do you guys think The Walking Dead will continue to grow? Is there no end in sight for what this show can accomplish?