×

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

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.

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.

More TV

  • THE ORVILLE Fox

    'The Orville' to Move From Fox to Hulu for Season 3

    Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” is on the move. MacFarlane announced Saturday at the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel that Season 3 of the sci-fi series will air exclusively on Hulu rather than on Fox as it has for its first two seasons. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, MacFarlane’s current workload and [...]

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    Aaron Paul, Showrunners Unveil 'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer (Watch)

    Season 3 of “Westworld” is going to new worlds altogether. Unveiled during the show’s Comic-Con panel, the trailer teases Thandie Newton’s character Maeve entering a new world of hosts set during World War II. Meanwhile, in the human world, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her fellow hosts who escaped “Westworld” in season 2 are being [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Dish Faces Multiple Outages as Carriage Contracts Come Due

    Satellite-broadcaster Dish is known in the media industry as a hard bargainer when carriage contracts come up for renewal. HBO hasn’t been available on the service since November. Now, other TV networks face a similar prospect. Unless Dish and certain content suppliers reach new terms by Monday evening, subscribers who use several cable networks currently [...]

  • Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of

    'Star Trek: Picard' to Feature Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan

    “Star Trek: Picard” is bringing back some familiar faces. During the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Saturday, it was revealed that Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Jeri Ryan would reprising their roles from “Next Generation” and “Voyager” in Ryan’s case. Jonathan Del Arco will also appear, likely reprising his role as the [...]

  • The Simpsons Homer Live

    'The Simpsons' Will Finally Release Season 19 on DVD, Helping Out Purist Collectors

    “The Simpsons” DVD collectors who also happen to be obsessive-compulsive can rest a little easier: You’ll finally be able to fill in that missing Season 19. Executive producer Al Jean revealed on Saturday that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will finally release the 19th season of “The Simpsons” on DVD this December 3, two years [...]

  • Pictured: No'l Wells as Ensign Tendi;

    'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Sets Main Cast

    The upcoming animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” has announced its main voice cast. Tawny Newsome, Noël Wells, and Eugene Cordero will all star in the series. As Variety exclusively reported, Jack Quaid has also been cast as Ensign Brad Boimler. The Starfleet characters that comprise the ship’s bridge crew include Captain Carol Freeman, voiced by [...]

  • Jack Quaid

    'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Casts Jack Quaid (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jack Quaid has joined the voice cast of the upcoming animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” at CBS All Access, Variety has learned exclusively. As previously announced, the series will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships. Quaid will voice the character of Ensign Brad Boimler. Described as a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content