While the main discussion points for the first half of The Walking Dead season 7 tended to be either Negan's ultra-violent kills in the season premiere or the seemingly endless separation of the core members of Rick's group, those more concerned with the business end of the series had a different concern. From the season premiere onward, TWD's ratings began steadily dropping, with the only (slight) rise occurring between episode 7 and the winter finale episode, 'Hearts Still Beating'.
This was an unprecedented pattern for Walking Dead, which has long-reigned as TV's most watched scripted series among the advertiser-treasured 18-49 viewer demographic. Past TWD seasons had seen ratings alternately rise and fall week to week, with the latest rise usually making up for the fall before it, and an eventual leveling off taking place. The way season 7 kept dropping and dropping worried many, with some wondering if TWD had finally hit its popularity peak, and would soon begin its descent back down to Earth, ratings-wise.
It's still too soon to know for sure whether or not those predictions of Nielsen doom will eventually prove correct, but at least for now, things are looking up for The Walking Dead. Deadline reports that this past Sunday's season 7.5 premiere episode - entitled 'Rock in the Road' - earned a 5.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic, and drew in over 12 million total viewers. This represents a 13% increase in total viewership from season 7's winter finale, and a 12% 18-49 demo increase.
To add to the good news, the ratings rise for 'Rock in the Road' when compared to last December's 'Hearts Still Beating' represents the first time a mid-season return episode of The Walking Dead has managed to top the ratings of its preceding winter finale since 2014's season 4.5 premiere. It'll also be interesting to see just how high the numbers for 'Rock in the Road' climb when the Live+3 totals come in later this week.
That all said, it's not entirely good news on the TWD ratings front, as the numbers for 'Rock in the Road' declined 13% in total viewership and 14% in the 18-49 demo when compared to last year's mid-season return episode, 'No Way Out'. To be fair though, 'Rock in the Road' was pitted against the usually highly-viewed Grammy Awards broadcast over on CBS, which likely siphoned off some potential live viewers from TWD. 'No Way Out' did not have to contend with the Grammys, as CBS made the decision to move the 2016 ceremony to Monday.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘New Best Friends’ @9pm on AMC.