Why ‘Walking Dead’s’ Ratings Are Still Worth Their Weight in Gold

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead” Season 7 concluded on Sunday with the battle we’ve all been waiting for, but the real story this season has been the drop-off in the show’s previously untouchable ratings. But how bad has the drop really been?

First the bad news: “The Walking Dead” has definitely seen a significant decline in its live-plus-same day ratings this season, with the series posting its lowest average ratings since season 3 aired back in 2012. The premiere episode of this season, which saw Negan brutally beat two main characters to death, pulled in a staggering 17 million viewers and an 8.4 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic. The season finale, on the other hand, drew a 5.4 and 11.3 million viewers. That is a decline of approximately 34% in total viewers and 36% in the demo. While it is not uncommon to see a decline between a premiere episode and a finale, looking at percentages from past seasons paints a bleak picture.

Take a look at season 6, for example. Compared to the season premiere, the finale was down just 7% in the demo and 3% in total viewers. The season 5 finale was down 6% in the demo and 9% in total viewers.

Likewise, the average viewership this season was down from years past. Season 6 averaged a 6.5 and 13.2 million viewers per episode in live-plus-same day viewing. For season 5, it was even better with a 7.4 and 14.4 million. Including the finale ratings, season 7 averaged a 5.4 and 11.4 million.

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Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

‘Walking Dead’ Season 7 Finale Is AMC Show’s Lowest-Rated Closer Since 2012

But now the good news: Even with its ratings dropping to season 3 levels, “The Walking Dead” is the undisputed number one entertainment show on TV, a title it has held for a record-breaking five seasons. Even the lowest-rated episodes this season are still impressive, particularly for a cable series.

The worst-rated episode of season 7 was the episode that aired March 5, in which Rick and Michonne are on the road in search of guns. That episode drew a 4.7 and 10.2 million viewers. To put that in context, the next highest-rated cable entertainment program in the key demo that week was the series’ after-show “Talking Dead” which drew a 1.6 airing immediately after its parent program. In total viewers, the nearest competition was Discovery’s unscripted series “Gold Rush,” which pulled in 3.7 million viewers.

And it is not just cable. The series beats the best of broadcast as well. Again, looking at the worst-rated episode of “Walking Dead,” the top broadcast show in the key demo that week was the season premiere of “The Voice” on NBC, which drew a 3.1. That means Rick and company outdrew their nearest competition in the demo by 41 percent. In terms of total viewers that week, “Walking Dead” ranked at number six, ahead of all four NBC “Chicago” shows and “NCIS: Los Angeles” on CBS, among many others. Not bad for the worst offering this year.

And those are just the live-plus-same day ratings. The show is also on top in terms of delayed viewing. Season 7 is averaging 15.5 million viewers per episode in live-plus-three and 16.4 million in live-plus-seven, though those figures do not reflect delayed viewing for the season finale.

AMC has already renewed the show for an eighth season, so it remains to be seen if the downward trend was just a fluke — or the beginning of the end for the popular series.

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  1. Bob says:

    I haven’t seen it episode since the end of season 6, basically some of us had to get off are arses and get jobs, eyes glued to the television to watch AMC TWD wasn’t paying the bills.

  2. Jon says:

    Do u think that the popularity on the walking dead will go up in season 8?

  3. Luna Cascade says:

    Everybody is a would be critic!

  4. MrWordsWorth says:

    Only morons and the brain dead watch this idiotic show about zombies and the walking dead.

    Go figure! Rofl…

  5. I don’t know if Wrestlemania had anything to do with that. A lot of people like the WWE. A lot of ppl are still angry about the cliffhanger too & IMO, that’s ridiculous. This is a TV show- not the comic book. I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I’m not going to take a tantrum & stop watching. I don’t think the show in even near danger. They still have great ratings & they make way too much money in merchandise. The Walking Dead isn’t going anywhere. And for the ppl who missed the finale, it’s their loss because it was AWESOME!!

  6. A.E. says:

    I get what you are saying. But I can tell you straight up, this isn’t boding. You pair this with the steep drop in die-hard viewers, which is more considerable than you know. Test the waters in TWD Facebook groups and online presence. It’s a problem. A big problem, and now is the time to correct it. Or the bleeding will be “Too Far Gone” — no way to wash this.

    If it is me, I’m insisting on new writing blood. Not necessarily a showrunner mix up, yet, but, time to see change in writing team. Season 8 doesn’t steady or see marginal growth, a showrunner switch up is in the works. And AMC has to face the facts. Plug the hole or continue to see the drop.

    Any Ad exec is looking at this, as sharply as any AMC decision makers are. Do or die for Gimple.

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