Published October 25. 2012 4:00AM
In an illustration of how the television world is changing, the hottest drama this fall is on cable.
AMC's creepy "The Walking Dead" pulled in 9.5 million viewers for the second episode of its third season on Sunday, a week after nearly 11 million watched the season premiere. AMC aired the episode two other times later Sunday, and the Nielsen ratings company said a total of 14 million people watched at least one of them.
The most-watched drama on broadcast TV last week, CBS' "Person of Interest," had just under 14 million viewers. The two "NCIS" dramas on CBS' Tuesday lineup are usually more popular but were pre-empted for the presidential debate last week.
"The Walking Dead," about a sheriff's deputy fighting zombie-like people, is even more impressive among the 18- to 49-year-old demographic, the sweet spot for most television advertisers. Sunday's first showing, at 9 p.m. Eastern time, had 6.5 million viewers in that group, with 9.5 million people watching one of the three.
On broadcast television last week, the most popular drama among 18- to 49-year-olds was ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," with 4.3 million viewers.
Growth for "The Walking Dead" has been explosive in its third season. AMC primed the pump by running many of the first two season's episodes in marathons leading up to the new ones, said Charlie Collier, the network's president and general manager.
There was a time that cable networks avoided bringing new original series on in the fall for fear of competing with all of the material on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. That time is long past because the fear is gone and because there is so much more original programming on cable that executives must use the full calendar to make their schedules.
"To some degree, viewers have become platform agnostic," Collier said. "Very few people distinguish between cable and broadcast the way the industry does."
With a busy campaign season, Fox News Channel was the top-rated network on basic cable last week, beating the likes of ESPN and USA. It was the most-watched week for Fox since the 2008 campaign, Nielsen said.
CBS won the week in prime time among broadcast networks with an average of 10.3 million viewers (6.6 rating, 11 share), followed by ABC's 8 million (5.2, 8). A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.
NBC was third in total viewers with 7.5 million (4.7, 8) but has won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic for the first four weeks of the TV season for the first time since 2002. Fox had 5.5 million (3.5, 6), the CW had 1.8 million (1.1, 2) and ION Television had 1 million (0.7, 1).
CBS announced on Tuesday that it was giving a full season's worth of orders for two of its freshman dramas, "Elementary" and "Vegas."
For the week of Oct. 15-22, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati, NBC, 17.47 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 15.86 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 15.73 million; "Person of Interest," CBS, 13.93 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 13.64 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 13.6 million; "The Voice," NBC, 13.01 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 12.92 million; "Modern Family," ABC, 12.28 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 12.039 million.