The drop was first noticeable in the season 8 premiere, which was down greatly from the highly-anticipated and promoted season 7 premiere hitting a low that hadn't been seen since season 3. This was to be somewhat expected but but that downward trend has continued until the most recent episode, "The Big Scary U". The installment focusing on Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan and the Saviors was the lowest rated episode of The Walking Dead since the penultimate episode of season 2, "Better Angels". While not a series low, "Big Scary U" marks the biggest drop for The Walking Dead, in terms of ratings, in six years.
According to TV by the Numbers, The Walking Dead earned 7.85 million viewers and 3.4 rating with the highly coveted 18-49 demographic with "The Big Scary U". This is down a half point from the previous week's episode. The last time the ratings were quite that low was back in season 2, when the show earned 3.1 rating. This was long before The Walking Dead blew up into a pop culture sensation.
Even though those numbers aren't amazing, it's worth pointing that The Walking Dead still dominated programming for the night. The second highest rating program was the series' after-show Talking Dead, which led the third place series, Real Housewives of Atlanta, by a few thousand viewers. Meanwhile, the difference between The Walking Dead and Real Housewives of Atlanta is more than five million viewers, though it's not as if the reality TV series is hot on the zombie's drama tail.
However, the drop shouldn't be dismissed quite so easily. The Walking Dead might still be the top dog on Sunday night, but that's too be expected with very little competition to stand in its way. The fact that the ratings are dropping at all suggests that many viewers are growing tired of the show's current storyline. Despite the "all out war" narrative that's currently playing out, season 8 has moved only incrementally. This was made obvious by "The Big Scary U," which was the fifth episode of the season to revisit a cliffhanger from the season premiere.
The Walking Dead still has a long way to drop before there's serious talk of cancellation occurring. The show's ratings are still something that most networks would gladly take, let alone a cable outlet like AMC. The steady drop does suggest that the show's lifetime is not quite as secure as everyone assumed and that it might be everyone's best interest to give The Walking Dead a solid wrap-up date, rather than continue to drag things out even further.
The Walking Dead season 8 continues next Sunday with ‘The King, The Widow, and Rick’ at 9pm/10c on AMC.
Source: TV By The Numbers