'Better Call Saul' sets cable-TV ratings record, could save AMC's bacon

For an independent programmer like AMC Networks, slugging it out alone in a consolidating pay-TV universe, hit shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead have provided the necessary leverage for growth.

With the former completing its landmark run in 2013, Mad Men entering its last season, and the powerful Walking Dead at or near its ratings peak, AMC needed a fresh hit. And it may have found it.

On Sunday, the premiere of Better Call Saul, Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad spinoff, set ratings records for a new cable series, drawing 4.4 million adults ages 18-49 to the live broadcast.

The 6.9 million total viewers drawn in by Saul just missed the total audience mark for a new cable show, set by TNT's The Closer in 2005 with 7.03 million.

As for The Walking Dead, Sunday night's second-half-of-the-fourth-season premiere drew 15.8 million viewers, 10.4 million in the key 18-49 demo. The series remains one of the most powerful draws on television outside sports programming.

But for AMC Networks, which is negotiating with pay-TV operators alongside much larger, vertically integrated conglomerates, two hits are certainly better than one.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story
- read this Deadline Hollywood story

Related links:
Sling TV launches nationwide, adds AMC Networks channels, sports pack
AMC will not go OTT, CEO Sapan says
AMC uses 'Walking Dead' to scare up leverage in DirecTV talks

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