I was very interested in the competition across the television landscape on Sunday night.  As we’ve chronicled here at AA, the ratings success of AMC’s The Walking Dead has been one of the most improbable phenomenons in the industry.  The Walking Dead is so hugely popular that it just might break ESPN and the NFL’s nearly 30 year streak of having the most watched series on cable.  Its ratings and viewership numbers have firmly pulled ahead of Monday Night Football for cable’s top show, which is all the more impressive considering TWD goes up against the NFL and Sunday Night Football, the #1 show in primetime.  In fact, zombies have even squeaked out some head-to-head victories against SNF on NBC in the coveted 18-49 demo.

This week, entering into the fray, was Game 5 of the World Series.  The MLB-NFL competition was decided long ago with football becoming America’s true pastime.  The only question would be the margin of victory by the NFL over the World Series and where The Walking Dead might fit in the equation.

Viewership numbers are in, and as I predicted on Twitter Sunday night, the final running order was SNF winning the night, followed by The Walking Dead, and finally the World Series.

1) Sunday Night Football: 18.8 million viewers
2) Walking Dead: 13.8 million viewers
3) World Series: 12.6 million viewers

The PR spin machine has kicked into high gear, as it always does when ratings are involved.  NBC claimed their “best ever performance” against the World Series with the Saints’ big victory over the Packers beating Royals-Giants by 49%.  For their part, Fox is hanging their hats on a “weekly primetime victory” and someone just so happened to point out NBC’s season low rating for Sunday Night Football.  In fact, with the stiff competition at hand, it is fair to say the NFL and MLB cannibalized each other’s ratings.  (*rimshot*)  NBC saw a season low and Fox saw the lowest Game 5 rating on record for the World Series.

Over on AMC, there’s still nothing stopping Rick Grimes and his merry band of vagabond survivors.  The Walking Dead started this season with insane viewership numbers for the season premiere (17.3 million), but has seen declines for the second (15.1 million) and third episodes (13.8 million) of season four.

However, with DVR viewing, the gap to SNF will be significantly closed and TWD may even surpass the NFL.  With Live +3 numbers included, The Walking Dead topped 20 million total viewers for its first two episodes this season picking up about 5 million viewers each week.

I wonder if a World Series game has ever finished as the third most-watched program on a given night as it did this Sunday.  While there’s always much hullabaloo over baseball reaching out to younger viewers, there’s no denying that the NFL and The Walking Dead are powered by their success in reaching out to them.  Maybe shortening games isn’t baseball’s real issues.  Maybe they need zombie pitchers.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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