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'The Walking Dead' season premiere draws 16.1 million TV viewers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - AMC's cult zombie horror series "The Walking Dead" drew its largest audience in the show's history, 16.1 million viewers, for the season premiere on Sunday, the U.S. cable television network said on Monday.

According to Nielsen data provided by AMC, the hour-long season premiere was the top-rated show across all U.S. television programming on Sunday night in the 18-49 demographic, including NBC's NFL "Sunday Night Football" game, which usually draws the largest viewership in the demographic.

Out of the 16.1 million viewers, 10.4 million were in the 18-49 age group most coveted by advertisers. The season three finale of "The Walking Dead" in March attracted a previous high of 12.4 million viewers, with 8.1 million in the 18-49 group.

"The Walking Dead" also went head-to-head against NBC's primetime football game in much of the country, except for the West Coast. The football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins drew a total of 19.7 million viewers.

AMC said more than 5 million users discussed the season four premiere on Facebook and Twitter, and the episode generated more than 1.1 million tweets on Sunday.

"The Walking Dead," based on a comic book series of the same name, follows a sheriff's deputy as he tries to save survivors from flesh-eating zombies in a post-apocalyptic world.

AMC, owned by AMC Networks Inc., has been expanding its audience with stylized shows, such as period advertising drama "Mad Men" which drew a series high of 2.7 million in June this year, and the series finale of gritty drug drama "Breaking Bad," watched by 10.3 million viewers last month.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Cynthia Osterman)

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