Our love for the undead knows no bounds. 

Like the growing zombie threat that plays out each week, the viewership for AMC's "The Walking Dead" continues to expand into new territory. The network announced that Sunday's season five premiere drew an average of 17.3 million households, with 11 million in the coveted 18-49 demographic. That crushes the previous record set during last season's premiere by more than 1 million total viewers and 600,000 in the 18-49.

“It’s a Dead man’s party. Who could ask for more?” said Charlie Collier, AMC president. "'The Walking Dead’ is one of those increasingly rare shows today that can command a live audience not significantly cannibalized by time-shifted viewing. Who would have thought that cannibalized television could be curtailed by cannibal-ized television?"

Accounting for time-shifting, the network estimates the season opener will easily exceed 22 million viewers. 

All of these rising numbers point to one major conclusion: "The Walking Dead" will continue haunting our fall and late winter programming for a very long time — well beyond the seven seasons that creator Robert Kirkman initially hoped for

"I think we'd be incredibly fortunate if we were one of those shows that got to go seven seasons," he told CNN in early 2013. "I think that's a good possibility in our future, the way things are going. Hopefully, we'll make it there. At the same time, this is a very unique show. You never know. Personally, if I could wave a magic wand, I'd make it go 20 seasons. This is the kind of story that is exciting to watch these characters grow and change over time."

With a sixth season recently given the green light and a spin-off series set to launch next year, the future of "TWD" is completely the opposite of the dark and gloomy one faced by its characters. If anything, AMC appears to have something akin to CBS's "CSI" crime drama. You could saturate the network with iterations like "The Walking Dead: London" and "The Walking Dead: Los Angeles" and fans would likely eat it up. For HBO and NBC, both of which passed on the series before AMC, the unlimited possibilities are a haunting reminder of a historic missed opportunity.  

Still not watching? Join the rest of us swept up in this depressing, but too-good-not-to-watch drama by checking out the first four minutes of the premiere below. 

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