The Walking Dead’s Daryl spin-off garners record premiere viewership on AMC+

AMC Networks touted streaming viewership for The Walking Dead franchise spin-off The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, disclosing it’s the most-viewed season of any series on the AMC+ platform.  

After three weeks of streaming data AMC said the spin-off starring Norman Reedus is the No. 1 premiere and pacing as most-viewed season of any show in the history of AMC+, which launched in 2020. Viewership for Daryl moved ahead of The Walking Dead: Dead City – a separate TWD franchise spin-off focused on characters Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) which premiered in June – to clinch the top spot.

According to the network, Sunday’s fourth episode of Daryl delivered season-high ratings on AMC in total viewers and in the adults age 25-54 demographic.

“What a thrill to have this most recent installment in The Walking Dead Universe arrive to set records on AMC+ and deliver steady viewership growth over its first four weeks on AMC,” said Dan McDermott, president of entertainment and AMC Studios for AMC Networks, in a statement. “Thanks to Norman Reedus for bringing his ‘bad decisions’ to France, to David Zabel, Scott M. Gimple, Clémence Poésy and the rest of the outstanding cast and to the most passionate and committed fans in entertainment.”

On linear television the fourth episode of Daryl garnered 1.1 million viewers on AMC’s network and is a top 15 cable drama for 2023 to-date for adults 25-54 years old.

AMC continues to lean into franchises, including expanding The Walking Dead universe with another series – The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, starring Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira – set to premiere next year on AMC and AMC+.

AMC Networks has pursued a streaming strategy alongside its linear network business, the latter which, like others in the space, has faced pressure from continued cord-cutting and a challenged ad market in the U.S. According to Leichtman Research Group, 64% of TV households nationwide have some form of live pay TV service – including cable, satellite, telco or virtual MVPDs like Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV.  That percentage is down from 78% in 2018 and 86% ten years ago in 2013. Excluding the 15% accounted for by virtual MVPDs, pay TV viewership declined below the 50% threshold, per Liechtman, dipping to 49% in 2023, according to NextTV.

“The percent of U.S. TV households with a live pay-TV service waned over the past decade, with a more precipitous decline over the past five years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, in a statement. “The penetration of pay-TV remains lowest among younger adults and the categories that they tend to populate, including movers and renters.”

As AMC looks to drive revenue, it’s planning to lean on advertising, including via FAST channels, across distribution modes. To that end, it recently started the official rollout of an ad-supported version of AMC+, priced at $4.99 per month. AMC first disclosed plans in April for the ad-supported tier, which features all of the same TV series and film as the $8.99 ad-free plan. In addition to original series and franchises, AMC+ also comes with access to the company’s streaming services Shudder, Sundance Now, and IFC Films Unlimited and linear network programming from AMC, BBC America, IFC and Sundance. 

The ad-supported AMC+ promises a “light ad load” of less than five minutes per hour. The service launched with “dozens of advertisers already on board” and offers marketers new ad formats including interactive units, shoppable ads, and overlays, among others.

“This ad-supported version of AMC+ gives consumers more flexibility while bringing ads to the only piece of our distribution ecosystem that wasn’t already ad-supported,” said Kim Kelleher, chief commercial officer of AMC Networks, in a statement in September. “Now, with our linear networks, strong and growing presence on CTV and FAST platforms and ad-supported AMC+, our advertising partners can fully leverage the reach and appeal of our high-quality shows and connect with viewers wherever and however they choose to watch.”