AMC's The Walking Dead came back strong this past weekend after its midseason break. Over 13.7 million people tuned in for the midseason premiere to see the resolution of last November's cliffhanger that left most of cast in one form of peril or another.
Unfortunately for AMC, this was actually a drop from the nearly 14 million who watched that finale and a drop of around 12 percent from the comparable viewership of the previous year's midseason premiere. Year-over-year viewership in the show's target demographic of adults 18-49 showed an even larger drop of 15 percent, but there's no reason for AMC to worry just yet.
Part of the reason for The Walking Dead's viewership drop can likely be attributed to when the midseason premiere aired this year compared to last year. This past Sunday was Valentine's Day, and it was a holiday weekend to boot, with President's Day following immediately after on Monday. The season 5 midseason premiere came a full week earlier on February 8, 2015, avoiding both the holiday weekend and romantic plans that might preclude watching survivors be attacked by a zombie horde. There was also some pretty solid competition on other networks, including two Valentine's Day specials and the NBA All-Star Game.
The show being on the air for as long as it has also likely played a part; it's reached a level of maturity where it has a strong core audience but isn't drawing in huge amounts of new viewers. This isn't even the first time that The Walking Dead has seen a drop in viewership, as the second half of season 5 experienced slightly lower demographic ratings and viewership than the first half. The season 6 midseason premiere garnering 13.7 million viewers and a 6.8 rating among adults 18-49 is still respectable, though, and the episode's numbers will likely be bolstered once delayed viewing totals are figured in.
This may well be the trend moving forward for The Walking Dead. Most long-running shows see their momentum level out or start to decline over time, and The Walking Dead has paved the way for other shows that weren't around even a year or two ago when TWD was climbing in the ratings. There are other tense adult dramas, and even other zombie outbreak shows (including Fear the Walking Dead) that viewers can check out. Viewership will likely stay strong moving forward, but the show probably won't pick up its previously unstoppable momentum again anytime soon. And there's nothing wrong with that.
The Walking Dead remains the top-rated show among its target demographic, and it was already renewed for season 7 way back in October. Recent seasons might not be everyone's cup of tea, but that doesn't mean the show will fade away anytime soon. Given how much material there is in the comics for the show's writers to draw inspiration from, The Walking Dead will likely be around for several more years before AMC even starts to worry about ratings slips.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays on AMC.