Based on Robert Kirkman’s series of comic books, The Walking Dead is often cited as one of the most popular series’ on television, having received record-breaking ratings and critical acclaim across all six seasons. The show captures the ongoing human drama amidst a zombie apocalypse and has developed a remarkably large and dedicated fan base by following its crowd-pleasing formula of steady character development mixed with the zombie flesh-eating action.
Momentum has been building throughout season 6, with AMC and the show’s actors teasing Negan’s arrival on the lead up to the series finale, which aired Sunday April 3rd. Now, while the villain’s highly anticipated appearance helped to boost ratings for the zombie drama, the statistics reveal that the show still failed to match last year’s record-setting closer, with the total number of viewers declining by just over 10%.
Deadline reports that Sunday’s 90-minute 'Last Day On Earth' episode managed to pull in 14.2 million viewers, as opposed to last year’s season 5 closing episode, Conquer, that attracted an audience of 15.98 million. In fact, in terms of total viewership, the season 6 finale was the lowest end to a TWD cycle since season 3’s climax in 2013, which garnered an estimated 12.42 million audience.
Out of those viewers that did tune in for a bite of the action on Sunday, many were left feeling frustrated and irritated by the episode’s final scene (and finale in general). After a season of hype surrounding the apparent death of a major character at the hands of Negan, the inconclusive cliffhanger received a decidedly negative reaction on social media. Due to some camera angle trickery, we (unfortunately) didn’t see which character was on the receiving end of Negan’s infamous barbwire-covered baseball bat.
And so the cycle begins again with several months of speculation ahead of The Walking Dead’s seventh season, with the creative team undoubtedly promising a jaw-dropping premiere episode. Though with so much hype and little pay-off, is the momentum beginning to flatline (just like Negan's victim)? The show has certainly reached a level maturity whereby it has a strong core audience but isn’t managing to draw in huge amounts of new viewers, perhaps because The Walking Dead has paved the way for other tense adult dramas of a similar nature (including its spinoff Fear the Walking Dead) that viewers can check out.
All of that said, despite a minor ratings slippage in season 6 of The Walking Dead, the series still manages to pull in respectable numbers and remains television’s top-rated entertainment series in its target demographic of adults aged 18-49. Sunday’s 6.9 episode rating was up 19% from the previous week (5.8) and turned out to be the highest since the midseason finale last November (7.0). All in all, the show appears to have incredible staying power and we’re convinced that devoted fans will forgive the divisive finale once the seventh season’s premiere episode hits screens later this year.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC this fall.