"The Walking Dead" returned with a huge audience for AMC on Sunday night.

The first airing of the third season premiere averaged 10.9 million viewers overall, up 50 percent over the season 2 premiere. Among young adults, it averaged 7.3 million viewers, up a comparable percentage. The three airings at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight combined for 15.2 million viewers.

AMC says these numbers make the premiere the most-watched telecast for any drama series in basic cable history.

"Thank you to the fans for making 'The Walking Dead' such a tremendous success," AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement. "We are honored and humbled that television's largest adult audience resides on AMC. So many people on both sides of the camera worked tirelessly on this project, and I thank and congratulate each of them for their amazing contribution."

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com