Now halfway through its sixth season, The Walking Dead is as popular as ever, consistently pulling in the sort of ratings that its parent network AMC would be very happy to duplicate elsewhere. Despite the occasional missteps, such as angering fans with an intelligence-insulting character death fake-out, the show has kept viewers coming back for more with its signature combination of zombie-on-human violence, human-on-zombie violence, and human-on-human violence.
Week after week, the show has maintained strong ratings despite being in a time slot that has pitted it against some formidable opponents. Now that 2015 is drawing to a close, however, it is time to tally up the ratings for the year and calculate whether The Walking Dead has come out on top of the seemingly endless horde of network and cable TV shows that are constantly hungering for its viewers... or if it has gotten dragged to the ground, kicking and screaming.
According to Nielsen ratings cited by Variety, the answer is definitely the former. Nielsen has crowned the show number 1 among Twitter audiences, number 1 time-shifted series, number 1 entertainment series of the year in adults 18-49 and adults 18-34, and the overall 4th most-watched series of the year behind NBC’s Sunday Night Football and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and NCIS.
While coming in at number 4 overall might seem like a lesser accomplishment, it is worth noting that the top 3 are all shows on network TV rather than cable, and one of those shows is the most popular sport in the United States. Cable has traditionally lagged behind the networks when it comes to pure ratings. After all, TV viewers get network stations with even the most basic of cable or satellite TV packages, or via antenna if they are among the increasing numbers of cord-cutters leaving cable behind. With that in mind, the number 4 spot is still a significant accomplishment for a cable TV genre series.
While The Walking Dead is often times an uneven show, with story decisions that range from good to bad to annoying, the new numbers from Nielsen show that it has at least maintained a high enough level of quality to keep a very large number of people watching it week in and week out. That trend is likely to continue when the series returns in February for the 2nd half of its 6th season, bringing a whole bunch of new opportunities for wanton violence with it.
The Walking Dead returns with ‘No Way Out’ on Sunday, February 14th, 2016 @9pm on AMC.