AMC could not have chosen a much more difficult time to launch its new series, Preacher. It’s the network’s best hope for a new The Walking Dead-sized ratings hit since that show’s spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, shed half its viewers between the pilot episode and the second season. (More on Fear’s midseason finale ratings below.) Unfortunately, Preacher had the misfortune of airing its premiere on the same night as one of the biggest Game of Thrones episodes to date, as well as the Billboard Music Awards, the NBA and NHL playoffs, and even Silicon Valley on HBO.
With that stiff competition, the heavily-promoted Preacher still managed to debut with 2.4 million viewers and 1.1 million in the 18-49 demographic. That makes it the second-biggest cable debut in the 18-49 demo this year, placing it just behind The People vs. O.J. Simpson on FX. The numbers, however, should improve significantly once DVR viewings are accounted for. Moreover, AMC has smartly made the pilot available for free on Apple TV and the network’s streaming site. They’re also going to re-air the first episode in its regular time slot on Sunday, May 29 at 9 p.m. ET, before rolling out the second episode on June 5.
In other words, the overnight numbers were decent and the series should continue to gain viewers over the next two weeks. Moreover, Preacher will not have to face Game of Thrones competition in July, which is when positive word of mouth should help push ratings for the series much higher. When the second season debuts, Preacher should probably be seeing numbers in the 5 million to 7 million range.
Meanwhile, ratings for the Fear the Walking Dead midseason finale remained flat but solid, with 4.4 million total viewers and 2.41 million among adults 18-49. Fear also typically adds 50 percent more viewership once DVRs are accounted for, and it will finish out the first half of its season as the second-highest-rated show on cable, behind only The Walking Dead. The audience isn’t as big as it was in the first season, but the remaining viewers have been sticking with the series. The baffling midseason finale might cost Fear some viewers when it returns in August, but that shouldn’t be a problem since Sunday nights in August and September are generally free of heavy competition.
Fear might be paired with the third season of the much-improved Halt and Catch Fire in August, which may be the best series going by the end of the summer.