NEW YORK (AP) — The zombies on "The Walking Dead" may be starting to stagger.
An estimated 14.6 million viewers watched the season premiere of the hit AMC series on Sunday, the Nielsen company said. That's down from the 17.3 million who saw last year's season opener and the 16.1 million people who watched in 2013.
Last year's season premiere was a viewership record for the series, so this year's numbers may be an indication that the show has peaked in popularity.
AMC points out that "The Walking Dead" was up against a Sunday-night football game between San Francisco and the New York Giants that was competitive to the last play. This year's season premiere was 90 minutes long, instead of an hour, and the extra time may have turned off some viewers, AMC said.
Last season's full season average was 14.4 million viewers on the night of an episode's first showing, up to 20 million when time-delayed viewership was figured in. Time-delayed numbers for this week aren't immediately available. Among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers that AMC most actively seeks, Sunday's telecast had 9.42 million viewers, down from 11 million in 2014.
Still, "The Walking Dead" was second in popularity only to "NCIS" among television dramas this past week. The 2.8 million younger viewers that "NCIS" attracted, however, was less than a third of the count of "The Walking Dead."
CBS easily won the ratings crown for the week, averaging 10.3 million viewers. NBC averaged 7.7 million, and won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic. ABC averaged 6 million viewers, Fox had 3.7 million, Univision had 2.4 million, the CW had 1.6 million, Telemundo had 1.4 million and ION Television had 1.1 million.
ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 4.03 million viewers. TBS had 3.43 million, AMC had 2.3 million, Disney had 1.79 million and Fox News Channel had 1.71 million.
NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.3 million viewers. ABC's "World News Tonight" was second with 8 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.7 million viewers.
For the week of Oct. 5-11, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: San Francisco at N.Y. Giants, NBC, 19.59 million; "NCIS," CBS, 16.87 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 15.41 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 15.4 million; NFL Football: Indianapolis at Houston, CBS, 15.08 million; "The Walking Dead," AMC, 14.63 million; NFL Football: Detroit at Seattle, ESPN, 14.4 million; "NCIS: New Orleans," CBS, 14.18 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Game," NBC, 13.94 million; "Empire," Fox, 13.1 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.