Spoiler alert: “The Walking Dead” is still a big ol’ eyeball draw. The mid-season premiere brought in 15.9 million viewers in Nielsen’s Live+3 ratings and 9.9 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic; up from the Live+Same Day ratings by 3.9 million viewers overall and 2.6 million in the demo. In the 25-54 demo, the return saw a lift of 2.6 million as well, bringing its total up to an even 10 million.
Those numbers are a bit off pace for the show. Last year’s mid-season return pulled in 12.3 million viewers in the 18-49 demo and 19.1 million viewers on the whole in Nielsen’s L+3 ratings. That’s a dip of about 17% in total viewers and around 20% in the 18-49 demo. The show peaked, ratings-wise, in its fifth season, and has been on a bit of a downward slope since; the lone exception being the highly anticipated Season 7 premiere, which brought in a whopping 17.03 million viewers on the night it aired.
The decline is not exactly a surprise for a show in its seventh season, and one that had a relentlessly nihilistic first half of the season that may have turned some viewers off. The fact remains that any network exec — broadcast, cable, or premium — would give at least one kidney for these numbers.